If you’ve been contacted by Social Services because they have concerns about your child, you may be worried and upset. You may want to know what your rights are and what you should do next.
Whether you’ve been told that Social Services will be going to Court about your child, or have been invited to a Pre-Proceedings meeting, our Care Proceedings Solicitors can help you.
If you are the parent of the child, or another person who has Parental Responsibility, such as a relative who has a Residence Order or a Child Arrangement Order, then in most cases you will be entitled to Legal Aid to cover all of your legal costs and it doesn’t matter what your financial situation is.
Our specialist team of Care Proceedings Solicitors in London, Bristol or Leeds can represent you at Court hearings and at Pre-Proceedings meetings. For help and legal advice get in touch with our Care Proceedings Solicitors.
Our Solicitors Can Help You Before, During and After Care Proceedings
We can help you with:
- Care Proceedings
- Pre-Proceedings meetings, also known as PLO Meetings
- Emergency hearings and Emergency Protection Orders
- Advice on Child Protection Conference meetings
- Special Guardianship
- Parental Responsibility
- Placement Orders
- Adoption Orders
- Advice to grandparents or other family members
- Advice to family members who have been accused of harming a child
It’s important to get legal advice as early as possible when Social Services are thinking about going to Court, so call one of our Care Proceedings Solicitors who can help you.
Legal Aid Funding for Care Proceedings
Legal Aid is automatically available for any parent, or anyone else with Parental Responsibility for the child concerned, who has to go to Court for Care Proceedings, or who has been asked to attend a Pre-Proceedings meetings.
Because you can get Legal Aid, you shouldn’t worry about the costs involved in getting legal representation and the sooner you get legal help and advice, the better for you and your child.
For anyone else Legal Aid may still be available but this will depend on your financial circumstances and the strength of your case. We will advise you if you can get Legal Aid and complete all of the paperwork for you.
Care Proceedings Information
If you’ve been told by Social Services that they are starting Care Proceedings for your child you may be worried about what will happen next. We can help you to understand the Care Proceedings process and represent you in Court.
Preparing for Your First Court Hearing
- If you’ve been told by Social Services that you have to go to Court about your child, you’ll be given a date for a first Court hearing. This is usually within a few days.
- If Social Services are really concerned about the immediate safety of your child and they feel that the situation is urgent, they may ask the Judge to allow them to remove your child from your care at the first hearing. .
- A Judge can only authorise your child to be separated from you at this stage if they believe the child is at risk of suffering significant harm and if separation of your child from you is the only way of protecting them. Your child could then be placed temporarily in foster care or with a relative, under an interim care order or child arrangements order.
- We know that Social Services don’t always get it right and it is essential that you get urgent, specialist legal advice and prepare fully for this first hearing.
What Happens after the First Court Hearing?
Whatever decision is made about your child at the first Court hearing, this won’t be the end.
- Over the next few months after the first hearing, social workers and other professionals will be assessing you and your children
- They’ll advise the Court about what they think is the best long-term outcome for your child
How Long Will Care Proceedings Take?
Each and every case is different, so it really depends but the law says that all child care cases should generally be finished within 26 weeks. This time period can only be extended in exceptional circumstances.
A timetable for your case will be fixed early on in the Care Proceedings process and your Solicitor will talk you through this timetable.
The Judge may say that you need to get help or support with your parenting, relationships, health or lifestyle and you should do this as soon as you can. The Court will be looking for changes throughout the proceedings and the quicker you make these changes, the easier it’ll be to persuade the Court that things will be better for your children as a result.
Possible Outcomes of Care Proceedings
At the end of the case, the Court will decide what should happen in the longer term. There are a number of different outcomes from Care Proceedings and the Judge has powers to make a range of Court Orders to reflect the outcome. These include:
- No Order
The Judge could decide that you’ve dealt with all of the concerns raised by Social Services, or that the concerns are not serious enough to justify a Court Order being made. Your child stays with you, at home, with no Court Order in place.
- A Supervision Order
The Judge may feel that you have dealt with the concerns enough for your child to stay with you but may worry that things could go wrong in the future. In this situation, the Judge could make a Supervision Order.
This puts a duty on your social worker to continue to give you advice and support and to monitor your care of your child.
It doesn’t give Social Services Parental Responsibility for your child and the Supervision Order will usually last for 12 months.
If all goes well, the Supervision Order will come to an end after that time. If social workers still have concerns, they may go back to Court and ask for the Order to be extended.
- A Care Order
If the Judge decides that it’s not possible for your child to be in your care, they could make a Care Order.
A Care Order gives Social Services Parental Responsibility for your child and allows them to place your child in long-term foster care, or sometimes with a relative.
A Care Order lasts until your child is 18, unless you go back to Court and the Judge decides that the Order can come to an end.
- A Special Guardianship Order
The Judge could decide that your child can’t stay in your care but feels that your child’s welfare is best met by being cared for by a relative. In these circumstances, the Court will make a Special Guardianship Order.
Your child will be placed into the care of someone else, such as a grandparent, on a long term basis and the “Special Guardian” will share Parental Responsibility for your child with you.
- A Placement Order
In a very small number of cases, and usually only with younger children, the Court could decide that the only long term option for your child is adoption.
The Court can only go down this route if there is truly no other alternative, such as another family member. In these cases, the Court can make a Placement Order which allows Social Services to place your child with future adopters for adoption at a later date.
Information about the Family Court
Your case will be dealt with by the Family Court. This is a specialist Court which only deals with family cases. Cases are usually dealt with in private and members of the public aren’t allowed into the Court.
Some cases are dealt with by Magistrates, who are Lay Judges and there are usually 3 of them, along with a qualified legal advisor. If you don’t have Magistrates, you will have either a District or a Circuit Judge, who are highly trained, experienced Lawyers. For the most complicated cases, a High Court Judge may hear your case.
We can explain who will be dealing with your case and what this means for you.
Why Choose Simpson Millar?
- Our friendly and experienced teams in London, Bristol and Leeds can help you with any issues relating to Care Proceedings for your children
- Our teams have many years’ of experience helping people in situations just like yours. We’ll do all we can to help you through the Care Proceedings process using all our experience to help get the best outcome for you and your child
- Whether you’re a parent, grandparent or step parent, we can help you
People We’ve Helped
We’ve helped many people through Care Proceedings and Pre-Proceedings meetings and we can help you too.
You can read about how we helped Charlotte (not her real name) through Care Proceedings to get her children back.
Our Team’s Expertise
Our whole team specialise in Care Proceedings work and most of our Solicitors are accredited by the Law Society Children Law Scheme. That means they have been identified as experts in this area of law because they are regularly instructed to represent the interests of children, parents and carers in Care Proceedings and offer an additional level of specialism to our team.
Our Care Proceedings team can help explain the legal process you’re going through so you understand what’s happening and the possible outcomes.
It’s really important to make sure you are involved in each stage of the process. We can help represent you. Get in touch today.
Accredited by the Law Society
Most of our Care Proceedings Solicitors are accredited by the Law Society Children Law Scheme. This shows their expertise in this area of law and their ability to represent the interests of children in Care Proceedings.
For free legal advice call our Care Proceedings Solicitors
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Simpson Millar Solicitors are a national law firm with over 500 staff and offices in Bristol, Cardiff, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester.