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29 Care Proceedings
10. What happens at the final hearing?
Before the final hearing, the court may hold a pre-hearing review, two weeks before the hearing, to consider how the remaining issues can be narrowed so that the final hearing will deal with them effectively.
Whether or not there is a pre-hearing review, the court will read all the papers, statements, reports and the care plan before the hearing starts. You will be represented at the hearing by your solicitor unless he or she arranges for a barrister to represent you. Before the hearing starts, your solicitor or barrister may have an informal meeting with the solicitors or barristers working for social services and the guardian to see whether they can reach an agreement, or whether social services want to make any last-minute changes to the care plan. After that meeting, your solicitor or barrister will discuss with you what was said, and any new plans put forward. It is important that you understand what they are suggesting before you respond. It is your solicitor or barrister’s job to explain this to you.
If you agree with their plans, the solicitors or barristers will write out the agreement and give it to the court. The court may ask some questions before deciding whether to agree to the plans. If the court approves the plans, this is known as a ‘consent order’.
If everyone cannot agree, the court will hear evidence from any witnesses who have been called by either side. The local authority will put its case and you will have the chance to put any evidence yourself if you want to. The court listens to everyone’s evidence so it can decide what order, if any, to make.
The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.
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