We know that if you’ve been told by Social Services that they’ve applied to Court because of concerns surrounding your child, you’ll likely feel worried and overwhelmed.
You might also be anxious about the process of going to Court, the information that will be relied upon and how the judge will make their final decision about your child. This is where we can begin to alleviate some of your concerns.
The views of Social workers form an essential part of the judge’s decision-making process, but their opinion won’t be the only one heard in Court, we’ll discuss this in more detail below.
For initial advice, get in touch with our expert Care Proceedings team.
When Would I Need to go to Court?
Going to Court should be a last resort and unless a child is in immediate danger, social workers are required to first work with parents before considering a Court application.
If the Local Authority is concerned about your child, they may set up what’s called a Public Law Outline (PLO) or pre-proceedings meeting.
If you’re invited to a PLO meeting, you’ll receive a ‘letter before proceedings’ which will outline the issues that children’s social work services have identified. You’ll be informed of a date and time on which you are invited to attend a meeting. The social worker could apply to take the matter to Court if you don’t attend.
It’s only in extreme cases that the Local Authority will go directly to Court to apply for an Emergency Protection Order or Interim Care Order. This will only be the case if it is believed that a child is in immediate danger and they need to be moved to a safe environment.
How Will the Judge Make Their Decision?
There are a number of factors the judge will take into consideration before deciding what is ultimately in a child’s best interests.
Social workers play a significant role in advising the Court on any concerns around a child’s safety. They should continue to speak with you as a parent, your child and any other friends or family members close to the child.
If the case goes to Court, a Children’s Guardian from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) will also speak to you and your family and will independently consider what recommendations should be made to the Court about what is best for the child.
The child’s assigned social worker and Children’s Guardian will produce reports for the Court outlining what they think should happen for the child and these will be taken into account at the final hearing.
As well as consulting these reports, the judge will also listen to what you and any other parent has to say about what should happen.
If the Court decides a child is safe at home or that the situation can be managed with some support to keep them safe at home, then removal of the child is unlikely. If removal is considered necessary, the Local Authority will make recommendations about what other placement may be best suited to the child whilst awaiting the Court’s final decision. This may be a placement with other family members or friends, or placement with a foster family or in a residential children’s home
How Long Will it Take for the Court to Decide?
The Court will usually try to keep to a timescale of 26 weeks after the initial application to Court to make a final decision, but this may take longer in more complex cases.
Get in touch with our expert Care Proceedings Solicitors for further advice tailored to your situation.
For free legal advice call our Care Proceedings Solicitors
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