How Long do Care Proceedings Take?

Posted on: 3 mins read
Patricia Cannon

Head of Family and Childcare

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You sometimes hear about families being involved in Care Proceedings.  This is where the Children’s Social Work Services Department of a local authority look into the welfare of a child and ask the Court to decide what arrangements are best for that child.

While each case is different, the law says that in England and Wales, child care cases should usually be finished within 26 weeks of the application being made. Although in exceptional circumstances it could take a little longer.  This would only happen if the judge decided more time is necessary in order to deal with the case ‘justly’ i.e. fairly.

Whilst the case is awaiting a final decision, the Family Court can make an interim care order which is a temporary order and will only last until another order or final decision is made.

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You may find yourself involved in care proceedings if social workers involved with your family are worried that your child is at risk of harm in your care.  For example, they might be worried that your child is being neglected, or that you might be involved in drug and alcohol misuse, that you might have poor mental health or other issues of concern.

We know the costs of legal advice can be a worry for you – so it’s important to know that Legal Aid is automatically available for any parent or person who has parental responsibility for the child and becomes involved in care proceedings.

Care Proceeding Court Hearings

Care Proceedings do involve court hearings. They are an important part of the process and allow both sides of the story to be presented in front of a judge who is an expert in these matters.

The first court hearing is usually a Case Management Hearing. This is where the application and the care plan for the child will be considered and an initial decision made on whether temporary orders are necessary. At the hearing the main issues in the case will be identified and a timetable will be set, which will include what reports need to be prepared in order for the Court to come to a decision. 

Later there will be an Issues Resolution Hearing.  This is to see if the parties can reach an agreement on the long-term plans for the child.  This includes discussing where the child should live and who they should be in contact with.  If everyone agrees on the plans, it is possible that the Court will decide that a final order should be made at that hearing.

The final hearing is when final decisions will be made.  At this stage all parties will have had access to the necessary paperwork to decide on their positions. 

At any stage in the proceedings we can help you understand what the care plans mean for you and your family.

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.

It’s really important to make sure you are involved at every stage. We can help you prepare your response to the Local Authority’s case.  A number of our Care Proceedings Solicitors are accredited under the Law Society’s Children Law Scheme. This means that they have been assessed as having the necessary expertise and experience to be able to represent children, parents and other relatives in this specialist area of law.

Our specialist team of Care Proceedings Solicitors in LondonBristol, Leeds or Manchester can represent you at Court hearings and at Pre-Proceedings meetings. For help and legal advice get in touch with our Care Proceedings Solicitors.

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