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What Happens in Care Proceedings?
Care Proceedings begin when the Local Authority believe that your children have suffered or may be at risk of harm. The Local Authority will ask the Court to look at your situation and decide if the Local Authority should be granted a legal Order to intervene and keep your children safe.
How do Care Proceedings begin?
Care Proceedings will begin by your children’s social worker providing the Court with papers that explain why they are worried about your children and why they feel that it is necessary to start Care Proceedings.
If you have parental responsibility you will automatically be a party to the proceedings and this means that you will also receive the same papers that is given to the Court. If you have a solicitor you can ask that your solicitor gets the papers instead and talks through them with you. You have a right to attend all Court hearings and you will have the opportunity to put forward your case either by yourself or through a solicitor.
The Public Law Outline is the guidance for the Courts on how to manage Care Proceedings. The guidance states that Court Proceedings should normally not exceed 26 weeks. This time limit can only be extended if there are exceptional reasons to justify going over this time limit.
What happens at Court?
If the Local Authority feel that your children will not be safe in your care then they may apply to the Court for an Interim Care Order. An Interim Care Order is a temporary order which lasts the duration of the proceedings and gives the Local Authority parental responsibility for your children. If this Order is granted then at this hearing it will be decided where your children should live, who your children will have contact with and what needs to be done before the final hearing. This will include assessments, reports and statements.
At each Court Hearing a further date will be set for any other hearings deemed necessary. In some cases there may only be one further hearing before a Final Hearing but in other matters there may be several. This is dependent on the facts of the case and what happens during the course of proceedings.
What happens after Court?
After the Court hearing there will be a number of things that you will be required to do and engage with in order to minimise the concerns and worries of the Local Authority. It is very important that you have a good working relationship with the professionals involved and continue to engage with the social worker.
After the Initial Hearing and any subsequent directions hearings, there will be the penultimate hearing called the Issues Resolution Hearing (IRH). This hearing will be listed before the final hearing and is a hearing to determine whether any agreements can be reached between the parties. If issues can be agreed and decided at this hearing then there may be no reason for a final hearing. if there are outstanding issues then the matter will be listed for a Final Hearing.
When will I have contact if my children are removed?
Depending on the concerns of the Local Authority, they must always encourage contact between children and their parents and relatives. The arrangements for contact will normally be agreed between you, the Local Authority and the Guardian. If it is not possible to reach an agreement then the Court will make that decision.
What happens at a final hearing?
There are a number of final Orders that can be made at the final hearing.
Care Order – this Order gives the Local Authority parental responsibility for your children. This usually means that your children will remain in the care of the Local Authority until they are 18 unless the Order ends before that date.
Supervision Order – this Order will not give the Local Authority parental responsibility for your children. With this Order the Local Authority will supervise the care you are providing to your children for as long as the Order lasts for.
Child Arrangements Order – this Order will state where your children will live with another person such as a family member or friend for as long as the Order lasts for and will also detail any contact arrangements.
Special Guardianship Order – this is another Order which will state that your children live with another person such as a family member. This Order is more difficult for a parent to apply to discharge than a Residence Order, a special guardianship Order is a more permanent arrangement.
Placement Order – this Order gives the Local Authority permission to place your children for adoption.
Where can I get help with Care Proceedings?
Here at Johnson Astills, members of our Care Department are highly experienced and can deal with a wide range of matters where the Local Authority are involved. If you require legal representation at Court or would like any advice in relation to any Local Authority involvement then do not hesitate to visit our Care Team Page on our Johnson Astills website or call our Leicester office on 0116 255 4855 or Loughborough office on 01509 610312 or email us at email@example.com.