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.
What is the matrimonial home?
The matrimonial home/family home is often referred to as the home in which the parties and their family lived in. Where people are married it is often referred to as the matrimonial home, where they have been in a cohabiting relationship it is often referred to as the family home. Both parties can have rights over this property irrespective of whose name it is in, irrespective of who has paid the bills. Please note, that the rights of a married couple on separation may well be very different to the rights of a cohabiting couple on separation. It is important that legal advice is taken to advise on those rights.
How can I work out what my partner should pay to me for our children as child maintenance?
Parents are encouraged to try and resolve amicably the level of child support that is paid by one parent (the parent with whom the children do not live with the majority of the time) to the other. If they can reach an agreement all well and good, that does not need to be ratified in a court order or via the CMS (Child Maintenance Service). Parents can be helped to reached an agreement by using a variety of sources including Child Maintenance Options, a free service providing impartial information and support to help separating parents make decisions about child maintenance arrangements.
Sometimes however parents cannot reach an agreement and an application to the CMS may be necessary. The CMS have a variety of options in dealing with child maintenance including carrying out a formal calculation based on the absent parent’s gross income, collecting the maintenance etc. please note that an application to the Child Maintenance Service is not free, it needs to be paid for by both parents. The CMS does have a variety of options for enforcement of maintenance as well.
Click here to see the CMS website
What is child maintenance?
Child maintenance is where one parent sometimes referred to as the absent parent pays maintenance to the other parent for that child’s support. Please note that what that parent does with the money is up to them, they may save it, they may use it to pay bills, they may use it to pay for a holiday i.e. the paying parent has no control over what the money is used for.
If parents share the care of the child(ren) then it may be that no child maintenance will be paid but in order to work this out you have to count the actual number of nights a child spends with both parents and if it is seven nights out of fourteen, then it is likely to be deemed true shared care. However, if it is only three nights out of seven, then one parent will be deemed to be the parent with care. If you can agree maintenance all well and good, if you cannot agree maintenance then you can make an application to the CMS (Child Maintenance Service) for them to determine child maintenance. Child maintenance is worked out on a formula and is based on your gross income and on a percentage basis according to the number of children you have and the number of nights they stay overnight with you.
Click here to see the CMS website
I am in a civil partnership; can I get divorced?
Bringing an end to a civil partnership involves slightly different terminology than bringing an end to a marriage. You can apply to dissolve your civil partnership provided you have been in the registered civil partnership for at least one year. The process is fairly similar to divorce in that you send paperwork to the court to ask for permission to end your civil partnership. You do not normally need to attend the court if you are just dealing with the paperwork application for dissolution. The grounds for ending a civil partnership are that the relationship has irretrievably broken down and this is proved in one of four ways:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation for more than two years with consent
- Living apart for more than five years