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29 Care Proceedings

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1 Introduction

2. Who can make decisions about my child's care?

3. Why would social services get involved in my child's care?

4. What happens when social services start care proceedings?

Social services may tell you that they are going to start care proceedings, but if they do not, you will find out when you receive a notice from the court telling you when and where the first hearing will be.

It is very important that you get legal advice. You may be upset or angry or feel that nobody is listening to you. It is important to have a solicitor who knows the law about children and how the courts make decisions in these types of case. These solicitors are usually members of the Law Society’s Children Panel, and you should try to get a solicitor who is a member of this panel. You can get details of Children Panel solicitors from:

  • a Citizens Advice Bureau;
  • the Family Rights Group; or
  • the Law Society. 

See ‘Further help’ for contact details.

People who are involved in care proceedings, including parents and people with parental responsibility, can get public funding (legal aid) to pay their solicitor’s fees. You can get this however much income or capital you have. See ‘Further help’ for contact details.

What happens when social services apply for a care order?

The local authority will apply to the court for a care order on the grounds that your child has suffered serious harm or is at risk of suffering serious harm in the future, because:

  • the care you are giving or have given your child is not what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give; or
  • your child is out of your control.

Care proceedings are started in the Family Proceedings Court and are dealt with under guidelines known as the Protocol for Judicial Case Management in Public Law Children Act Cases. These are meant to make sure cases are dealt with fairly and without unnecessary delay. The guidelines say that care proceedings should be finished within a maximum of 40 weeks of the local authority asking the court for a care order, unless the case is very complicated.

If you are a parent or carer of the child, you will be a ‘party’ to the proceedings so you will receive a copy of the application and will be told the date, time and place of the first hearing.

If you have not already got a solicitor, you should go and see a solicitor on the Children Panel (see ‘What happens when social services start care proceedings?'). The solicitor will act on your behalf and represent you in court (although they may decide that you need a barrister to represent you in court).

5. What happens at the first hearing?

6. What orders can the court make at the first hearing?

7. Who will represent my child during proceedings?

8. What happens after an interim order is made?

9. How do I prepare for the final hearing?

10. What happens at the final hearing?

11. How does the court make its decision?

12. What types of order can the court make?

13. How long does a care order last?

14. How can I apply to end a care order?

15. Further help

16. About this leaflet

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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