Our experienced team are committed to advising and representing you at every stage of your case and aim to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.
Our Care Team are here to advise and assist you through the legal process when Social Services decide to issue court proceedings to remove your child or children from your care. They have a wealth of experience and fully understand the legal process in order to navigate your way through the proceedings.
It is important that when Social Services indicate that they will be starting Court Proceedings that you seek legal advice immediately. Please therefore contact our care team on 033 33 582 588 or fill out the contact form to enable us to assess whether we can assist you.
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All of our care services
In addition to Care Proceedings we can also assist with:
- Child Protection
- Pre-Proceedings also known as PLO (Public Law Outline) Meetings
- Emergency Protection Orders
- Supervision Orders
- Special Guardianship Orders
- Secure Accommodation Orders
- Placement Orders
- Adoption Orders
- Discharge of Care Orders
- Contact with children in care
- Advice to grandparents or other family members
- Advice to family members who have been accused of harming a child
It is important to get legal advice as early as possible when Social Services become involved, so please contact us for further assistance
Paying for a solicitor & Legal Aid
If Social Services have started court proceedings, and you are a parent or someone with Parental Responsibility for the child or children concerned, then Legal Aid is automatically available to you, regardless as to how much you earn. This means you do not need to worry about the cost of paying for legal advice.
If you are not a parent of the child or children, or do not have Parental Responsibility but have been made a party to the court proceedings, you may be entitled to Legal Aid, but this would be dependent upon your financial circumstances and the strength of your case.
Our Care Team are experts in dealing with Legal Aid and will advise you accordingly.
Law Society Accredited
Members of our Care Team are specialists dealing with all matters relating to child care and are members of the Law Society Children Panel, which recognises their specialist skills in representing children and parents.
What are Care Proceedings?
When a Local Authority has significant concerns about the welfare of a child or children, which cannot be resolved outside of Court, the Local Authority will start court proceedings.
When starting Court proceedings a Local Authority are normally asking the Court to make either a Care or Supervision Order, as they believe this is they only way to safeguard a child or children’s welfare, whilst the matter is assessed.
What is a Care Order?
A Local Authority can apply for a Care Order under s.31 of the Children Act 1989, when they consider a child or children is suffering or is likely to suffer, significant harm attributable to the care given to the child or children by those caring for the child or children.
Harm is widely defined as meaning ill treatment or impairment of health or development, including impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another
Ill Treatment includes psychological ill-treatment, physical and sexual abuse and the impairment of health and development includes emotional harm and neglect.
When a Local Authority asks the Court for a Care Order they have to prepare a ‘Care Plan’.
A Care Plan sets out the arrangements in terms of where they propose your child(ren) should live during the course of the Court Proceedings, and if not remaining in your care, what contact the child(ren) should have with you or your extended family.
If a Court considers the ‘Threshold’ for making a Care Order is met, and the Care Plan is appropriate for the child(ren), the Court will make a Care Order.
The making of a Care Order means the Local Authority will then share Parental Responsibility will any parent or carer who already has Parental Responsibility, but they have the ability to exercise their rights over your wishes, in circumstances where they consider you are not putting your child(ren)’s needs, wellbeing or safety first.
A Care Order does not extinguish a parents or carer’s Parental Responsibility. The only way this can be lost is if an Adoption Order is made, or a parent/ carer relinquishes their Parental Responsibility by agreement or Court Order
If at any point during Care Proceedings, a parent/carer does not agree with the Care Plan or decisions that a Local Authority makes in respect of a child or children, they should be advised as to the merits of challenging such decisions or plans.
A Local Authority will only retain Parental Responsibility whilst a Care Order is in place.
What is a supervision order?
A Supervision Order is an order putting a child(ren) under the supervision of a designated local authority, typically while the child(ren) remains in the care of their parents or carers.
A Supervision Order does not give a Local Authority, Parental Responsibility. The Local Authority are still required to make a Care Plan, so that all parties are aware of what needs to be done if the child(ren) are to remain in a parent/carers care, in order to safeguard the child(ren).
Timetable for care proceedings
Once Court Proceedings have been started, the Court and all parties must follow the Public Law Outline. This procedure has been designed to manage all care proceedings and aims to ensure that they are completed within a reasonable timescale (usually 26 weeks).
Before the Court can even contemplate making a final Care Order a lot of work needs to be carried out to ensure that the court has all the evidence it needs to make a fair and balanced decision that is in the best interests of the child(ren).
Interim Care Orders
It can be several months before the Court makes a final decision. Because of this, the Local Authority will usually seek an ‘Interim Care Order’ to share Parental Responsibility throughout the proceedings. The Local Authority will provide a Care Plan setting out their proposals for the care of the child(ren) during the interim period.
Interim order means a ‘holding position’. It does not give the Local Authority any advantages and will not determine the proceedings’ ultimate outcome.
The grounds for an interim Order differ from those for a final Care Order. It is unnecessary to prove that the Threshold Criteria are made out, but there are reasonable grounds for believing that this is the case.
If you do not agree to an Interim Care Order being made, the court will usually list a short hearing to hear oral evidence from you and the Local Authority. The court will then determine whether such an order is necessary given the circumstances of the case.
Interim Supervision Orders
An Interim Supervision Order does not give a Local Authority Parental Responsibility. If the Local Authority seek an Interim Supervision Order, it means that they will not be seeking to remove your child(ren) from your care, during the course of the court proceedings.
Such an order may require the supervised child(ren) to:
- Live in a specified place.
- Present themselves to specified persons at specified times and places.
- Participate in specified activities.
What is a Case Management Hearing?
This hearing is attended by all the parties and their legal representatives. The purpose of the hearing is to enable the court to identify the key issues which need to be resolved and make directions setting out what each party is expected to do prior to the next hearing. The court also needs to pay close attention to how long proceedings are likely to take and draw up a timetable to try and ensure the matter is concluded within 26 weeks.
Can Final Order be made at this stage?
Final orders can be made at any stage of care proceedings. In most cases, only because all the parties agree with final orders being made.
Issues Resolution Hearing
The purpose of this hearing is for all parties to identify the remaining issues in the case and, as far as possible, resolve or narrow these issues. Where all of the issues can be resolved this hearing can be used as a final hearing and a final order can be made by the court. Attendance at this hearing is vital as final orders can be made, even in a parties absence.
If the issues cannot be resolved the court will consider whether there is any other evidence, it requires to make a decision. It will then make directions to ensure all evidence is made available and list the matter for a Final Hearing
At the Final Hearing, the court will hear oral evidence from all parties and consider any other evidence that has been gathered. The court will then make a final decision based upon this evidence and will make a final order.