Care Proceedings Guidance for Families

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What are care proceedings? 

Care proceedings in the UK are legal proceedings that take place when a local authority, such as a council or the government, believes that a child is at risk of harm and needs protection. They may involve removing the child from their home and placing them in care, or placing them under a supervision order that allows them to remain at home with certain conditions.

We have added some care proceedings guidance below to help families understand the process and the options open to them.

If you are involved in care proceedings, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. You may be entitled to legal aid to help pay for a lawyer if you are eligible.

During the proceedings, a family court judge will consider the evidence presented by the local authority or social worker and any other relevant parties, such as the child’s parents, guardians or other family members, and make a decision about the child’s welfare. The judge will consider the child’s best interests when making this decision.

The aim of care proceedings is to protect the child and ensure their safety, but it can also be a stressful and emotional time for all parties involved. It is important to have support and guidance throughout the process.

How are care proceedings initiated?

A local authority can start care proceedings by making an application to the family court for an order under the Children Act 1989. The application can be made for a variety of orders, including a care order, supervision order, or an emergency protection order. The local authority must have reason to believe that a child is at risk of significant harm, neglect, or abuse, and that an order is necessary to protect the child’s welfare. The court will then consider the evidence and make a decision on the best course of action for the child.

What constitutes a risk of significant harm?

The threshold for initiating care proceedings is that the child must be at risk of significant harm, as defined by the Children Act 1989. This can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or exposure to harm or neglect by others. The local authority must have reasonable cause to suspect that the child is at risk of significant harm and must conduct an investigation to determine if care proceedings are necessary. If it is determined that the child is at risk of significant harm and that there are no other suitable alternatives, the local authority can initiate care proceedings to seek a court order to protect the child.

Care proceedings guidance – The process

Care proceedings usually take around 26 weeks and involves a number of court hearings, at which evidence is presented and witnesses are called, and a final decision is made about the child’s welfare. The process is intended to be as child-focused and expedient as possible, and the child’s welfare is considered to be the paramount consideration in any decision made.

A pre-proceedings meeting, also known as a “pre-proceedings conference,” is a meeting held before the start of care proceedings. The purpose of the meeting is to try to resolve any issues or concerns related to the child’s welfare without the need for formal court proceedings. The meeting typically involves the parents, the child’s social worker, and a legal representative for the child, if one has been appointed. The goal of the meeting is to reach an agreement on a plan for the child’s care and to avoid the need for a full court hearing.

There will be up to three hearings during these proceedings; a Case Management Hearing, an Issues Resolution Hearing and a Final Hearing. Those with parental responsibility should attend all hearings involved in their care case.

Orders made during care proceedings

The court can make a variety of orders, including:

  • Care Order: This order places the child in the care of the local authority, who will then be responsible for the child’s welfare and upbringing.
  • Supervision Order: This order places the child under the supervision of a local authority social worker, who will monitor the child’s welfare and provide support to the child’s parents or carers.
  • Emergency Protection Order: This order is made in urgent cases where a child is believed to be at immediate risk of harm. It allows the local authority to remove the child from the care of their parents or carers and place them in a place of safety.
  • Placement Order: This order authorizes the local authority to place a child for adoption, either with prospective adopters or in foster care.
  • Special Guardianship Order: This order appoints a special guardian for a child, who will have parental responsibility for the child, and the child will be placed under the special guardian’s care.
  • Child Arrangements Order: This order determines with whom a child should live, spend time or have other forms of contact and when.

These are the main types of orders that can be made in care proceedings in the UK, but there are other orders that can be made depending on the circumstances of the case.

How can Expert Family Law assist?

Expert Family Law have a panel of experienced solicitors with the experience and expertise required to assist with Care Proceedings.

We understand that disputes involving children and their care can be incredibly complex and sensitive. The solicitors on our panel can provide you with the best advice and assistance on resolving care disputes.

As well as assisting with Care Proceedings, our panel of family law solicitors can also advise and assist on child arrangementschild custodychild contact and domestic abuse. We also assist those in the process of divorce and the division of assets following the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership (ancillary relief).

We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner and we will provide all the care proceedings guidance and assistance you need.

Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a solicitor from our panel could help on your case.

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