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Child Arrangements  |  Child law  |  Court

The Stages of Child Care Proceedings

Posted by
Walker Family Law
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Care proceedings are an extremely daunting prospect for any parent to face. It is therefore important that they understand the court process involved.

Care proceedings will be commenced when the local authority is concerned that a child in its area has suffered, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm attributable to either the care given to the child, or likely to be given to them, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give them, or to the child being beyond parental control.

Care proceedings are a last resort, pursued only after exhausting efforts to keep the child with their birth family.

A pre-proceedings meeting will usually take place as a final attempt to prevent the matter going to court. Parents will receive a letter from the council before the meeting, outlining concerns and inviting attendance. The council will clearly communicate parental expectations regarding their child. Failure to meet these may lead to care proceedings

Once the proceedings have been issued the exact procedure will vary from case to case, depending upon the circumstances. However, the basic procedure takes place in three stages: the Case Management Hearing, the Issues Resolution Hearing, and the Final Hearing.

Stage 1: The Case Management Hearing

The Case Management Hearing is usually the first hearing that takes place, fixed when the proceedings are issued. The hearing is typically brief, with the court providing directions for the next steps.

In order to decide what should happen next the court will review the council’s application and its plans for the child (set out in a ‘care plan’), identify the main issues in the case, and what evidence will be required to enable the court to resolve those issues.

Evidence will comprise written statements from parents expressing their views and any necessary expert reports filed. The court may also want other family members to be assessed as potential carers for the child.

A timetable for that evidence, and for next stages in the case, will then be set by the court. The court will usually want the case to be completed within 26 weeks, although this deadline can be extended.

Stage 2: The Issues Resolution Hearing

The purpose of the Issues Resolution Hearing is to see whether everyone involved is able to agree upon long-term plans for the child, including where the child should live and what contact anyone should have with them.

If agreement is reached, then this might be the final hearing.

If no agreement can be reached, the hearing identifies and narrows issues for the Final Hearing. The court will also fix a date for the Final Hearing.

Stage 3: The Final Hearing

At the final hearing, which will usually take place over several days, the court will hear (or read) all of the evidence, and make its final decisions.

The decisions that the court will make will be about the long-term care arrangements for the child, what contact the child should have with anyone, such as parents or other family members, and what orders, if any, are needed to put those arrangements in place.

The orders that the court can make include: a care order placing the child in the care of the local authority; a supervision order placing the child under the supervision of the local authority (the child will usually remain with the family); a special guardianship order placing the child with someone other than their parents; and a placement order authorising the local authority to place the child for adoption.

How can we help?

Please contact us if you require any further information.

For more information about care proceedings and how we can help, see this page.