How Long do Care Proceedings Take?

Posted on: 7 mins read
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Patricia Cannon

Head of Family and Childcare

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Introduction to Care Proceedings

You sometimes hear about families being involved in Care Proceedings.  This is where the Children’s Social Work  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  longer. This would only happen if the judge decided more time is necessary in order to deal with the case ‘justly’ i.e. fairly.

The Importance of Reaching the Right Decision

It’s always important to make sure the right decision is reached in care proceedings, which means that they can take longer at times. This is because care proceedings are all about making sure a child is safe, whether it means  providing additional support to the family or taking them out of their current home and placing them into care,

These cases can be very intense and heavy matters, ones which are often tied up with a lot of emotion, but it’s essential that everything is done right to make sure the child or children are no longer at risk of harm, whether that’s emotional or physical harm.

In these cases, the right decision needs to be made in terms of what is in the child’s best interests. Being taken away from their family can be a very difficult thing for a child, but sometimes it is necessary, especially if that child would have been at risk of harm if they had stayed in that home.

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Interim Care Orders Explained

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.

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 which is impacting on how you can look after your children or other issues of concern.

At Simpson Millar, 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.

We’re here to walk you through care proceedings,  what to expect during court hearings and more. We are ready to bring our expertise to your case to provide tailored help and advice.

Understanding Care Proceeding Court Hearings

Care Proceedings do involve court hearings. They are an important part of the process and allow both sides of the case  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 and will have had the opportunity to do a statement setting out their position.

Support and Resources for Families

Care proceedings might seem scary for people who don’t understand the legal system and how these things work. Whether you’re new to having social workers involved with your family , or if you’re a family member or parent of a child involved in care proceedings, you might be daunted by the whole process.

But, at every step of the way, there are resources and support available to you to help you understand what’s going on. In addition, there are lots of ways you can get emotional and mental health support if proceedings are bringing up difficult emotions for you, from support groups to therapy and more.

You may feel hopeless, and afraid about the decision that’s going to be made, but it’s important to remember that this is all about keeping the child safe and secure in the home. This means that, whatever decision is reached, it will be in the child’s best interests.

Although it may feel like it at times, the system isn’t set up to be against anyone or to catch anyone out. Instead, it’s just there to make sure children are safe and properly looked after, and that their home is a secure and risk-free environment that isn’t damaging to their mental or physical health.

In care proceedings, no one wants to remove a child from their home and from their family. In fact, this is usually a last resort when it comes to keeping children safe. This is because professionals understand that it is likely to be scary for a child to be  removed from a familiar home and from their parents, without any warning.

But sometimes, it needs to be done when the child is at serious risk of harm.

Whatever your situation may be, and whatever stage of the process you’re in, we’re here to provide help and advice at all times, so you can understand what’s happening and what you can expect going through the process.

Get in Touch

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 Children’s  Services will be going to Court about your child, or have been invited to a Pre-Proceedings (PLO) meeting, our Care Proceedings Solicitors can help you.

It’s important to make sure you are involved at every stage. To do this, we ensure that you’re kept updated on your case at all times

We understand how stressful legal proceedings can be, and even more so when it’s regarding the care of someone close to you. That’s why we keep you informed so that hopefully you feel less worried or and don’t feel confused about what’s happening with your case.

In addition, we understand the emotional strain which care proceedings can put on you. Care proceedings can bring up some difficult feelings, which is why we’re always here to help you find mental health support; we can signpost you to relevant services who could help you

We aim to provide a private and confidential safe space for all our clients, especially in sensitive cases like these. We will always strive to be open and honest, so that you feel able to ask any questions and come to us with any worries or concerns, and we will answer with empathy and transparency. We understand how important it is that you know what’s happening and what your rights are, which is why we try to make your experience of this aspect of the law as accessible as possible.

We know how to explain things in a way that everyone will understand, so that we can remove the confusion around this area of the law. This way, you will hopefully feel less stressed  about what you can do about your situation.

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 London, Bristol, Leeds or Manchester can represent you at Court hearings and at Pre-Proceedings (PLO) meetings.

For help and legal advice get in touch with our Care Proceedings Solicitors.


UK Government. (n.d.). If your child is taken into care: Care proceedings. Retrieved from

Family Rights Group. (n.d.). The Stages of Care Proceedings. Retrieved from

Patricia Cannon

Head of Family and Childcare

Areas of Expertise:
Care Proceedings

As a Partner, Children Panel Solicitor and Department Head of our teams of Care Proceedings Solicitors in London, Bristol, Manchester and Leeds; Patricia represents parents, other carers and children in care proceedings and other matters related to disputes regarding children.

Patricia also offers advice and representation to those seeking protection from or responding to allegations of domestic abuse.

Patricia joined Simpson Millar in October 2018, and has over 20 years’ experience in Family Law, having qualified as a Solicitor in 2001.

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