What is a care order?
A care order places a child in the care of the local authority until he or she reaches 18 or the order is revoked. This provides the local authority with parental responsibility in respect of the child and allows it to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as with whom the child is to live and to regulate contact. The local authority must consult with the parents and involve them in the decision making. It can only be made if the local authority satisfies the court there is evidence that the child/ren are suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm attributable to the care they are receiving, and that it is proportionate and in the children(s) best interests they are made the subject of an order
What is an interim care order?
Where an application is made for a care order, the court may make a temporary order called an interim care order placing a child in the care of the local authority until it makes a final decision. The order provides the local authority with parental responsibility.
An interim care order allows the local authority to make decisions regarding your children until the final hearing, subject to certain exceptions, however, they must consult with the parents. The local authority will be able to decide with whom the child is to live.
I have been served with an emergency protection order, what is it?
This is an order allowing a child to be removed from their carers where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child is at immediate risk of significant harm. It is an order “requiring exceptional justification”. So long as the order lasts the local authority will share limited parental responsibility with you and others who have parental responsibility. It will enable the local authority to make significant decisions regarding where your child lives and who he/she can see and when. An Emergency Protection Order can last up to eight days but this can be extended once by a court for up to a further seven days.
I have been told I can’t continue in a relationship with my partner due to the safety of my children, what can I do?
The local authority cannot force you to end your relationship with your partner. However, you will almost definitely need a solicitor if it is alleged that your partner has, or is, significantly harming your children or that they present a risk of significant harm to your children. The local authority may use this as grounds to remove your children from you. They may also allege that, by continuing the relationship, you cannot adequately protect your children from harm, which would constitute grounds for removal.
I have been told that my children will be taken into care, what should I do?
You should seek legal advice immediately. The local authority can only place children in care with their parents’ consent or with a court order. We can evaluate the evidence quickly and advise you on the next steps.
I have had a visit from social services, do I need a solicitor?
You will almost definitely need a solicitor if social services tell you that they will be issuing care proceedings, that they will be holding a Public Law Outline meeting, if they ask you to sign a Section 20 written agreement or are convening a case conference, or they tell you that you need a solicitor.