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Do I have to go Court?
If you don’t agree with the local authority’s view on how you should change the way you look after your child, or don’t keep to an agreement you have made with them, or your local authority continues to have concerns about the way you do or will look after your child, they may apply to the court about your child. They will ask the court for permission to take your child into care or to get legal rights to make decisions about your child’s life and what they do. If your local authority thinks your child is in serious danger of being harmed, they can apply to court at any time without making an agreement.
How do I know when to go?
We will tell you. The local authority may also send you a letter. You may not get much warning, but you must still attend.
What happens at court?
The first thing the local authority will do is ask the family court to make a temporary court order, called an ‘interim care or supervision order’. The local authority social worker will carry out some investigations into your children’s welfare and suggest an ‘interim care plan’. The care plan outlines what they think should happen to your children until a final decision is made, including whether they think your children should be taken into care or stay in the family. You will also be asked what you think. In general, you should let us answer the questions, because we know how to put your points across in the right way. But sometimes the judge or magistrate will speak to you. Because cases about taking children into care are very important, you will normally go to court more than once. After you go for the first time, the judge or magistrate will want to get more information. They may ask for some assessments to be made to help them decide.
Who decides what happens to my child?
The judge or magistrates decide what happens – not social services.
What decisions can they make?
They can decide that:
- your child will stay with you
- your child will move to live with a friend
- Your child will move to lie with a family member
- your child will go into care
You have a right to argue against this in court
Who will be at court?
- A judge or magistrates
- You and your solicitor
- The other parent and their solicitor
- The local authority’s solicitor
- Your child’s social worker
- A children’s guardian from CAFCASS
- Your child’s solicitor.
What is a Children’s Guardian and why must my child meet one?
A children’s guardian is appointed by the court to work out what the best thing would be for your child. They do not work for your local authority. Their job involves meeting your child, meeting you and other members of your family. They may also meet your child’s teacher, social worker and doctor. By talking to all these people, they try to work out what your child thinks about the way they are looked after and where your child would like to or should live. They then write a report for the court setting out your child’s views and saying what they think would be best for your child. Their view may not be the same as what your child says they want.
Why does my child need their own solicitor?
To make sure your child’s views are heard by the judge or magistrates, your child should have their own solicitor. Normally, the children’s guardian will appoint a solicitor for your child and give the solicitor their report. The solicitor will then use this report to explain your child’s views. If your child is old enough, they will be allowed to speak to their solicitor directly.
What Assessments could a court ask for?
A court can ask for lots of different assessments of you and your child. The assessments that the court could ask for include:-
• Parenting Assessent
• Psychological Assessment
• Psychiatric Assessment
• Medical Assessment
They can also ask for your family members to be assessed to see if any of them would be able to look after your child. These are called either Viability Assessment or Kinship Carer Assessment.
How does the Court make a decision?
The Court will normally look at all the assessments that are available and make a decision in accordance with the law that is mainly contained within the Children Act 1989. You are entitled to your say and will be entitled to tell the judge what you believe is right and wrong.
How long does it take to finish the case?
It normally takes about 26 weeks for a court to decide what will happen to your child.
What happens to my child until the court makes a decision?
Until the court makes a final decision, it will decide if your child will either:
- stay with you
- stay with a member of your family,
- be taken into care
This depends on whether the court thinks your child is in danger of being harmed if they stay with you in the short term. If your child is taken into care, you will normally be allowed to see them. The decision as to how often you see your child will be decided at Court.
How often will I see my child if they are in foster care?
This depends on the individual circumstances of the case, but it is usually at least once per week.
Legal Aid is available in most circumstances and we are able to do a free assessment of this for you.
If you are worried and need advice or are anxious that the local authority may be going to apply to remove your children from your care, then don't delay and contact us immediately so that we may help you. In these cases you will be able to get legal aid.