The Court can make various orders, listed here some of the more important ones.
Emergency Protection Order.
This is an order which is made on short notice, or sometimes without notice, allowing social services to remove a child from its home, or keep a child in a particular place, in certain circumstances. These are emergency orders and can only last for up to 8 days in the first place, or up to 15 days if extended.
A care order is an order which gives a local authority parental responsibility for a child. It does not automatically mean that the child is removed from its parents. The local authority shares parental responsibility with anyone else who has it. That means the local authority has a duty to consult and work with the other person or persons holding parental responsibility. In the event of disagreement, it is the local authority’s view that has priority. Thus the local authority can, for example, insist that a child lives away from the parent’s home if there is a care order in force.
A supervision order does not give the local authority parental responsibility. However, it does enable a local authority to advise, assist and befriend a child for a set period of time, normally 12 months in the first place.
Interim Care Orders and Interim Supervision Order. An interim order is a temporary order, which lasts until the next hearing. It is intended to deal with the position until the court makes its final order. Interim care orders give a local authority parental responsibility on a temporary basis and can in some circumstances enable a local authority to remove a child from his/her home on a temporary basis. An interim supervision order enables a local authority to assist and befriend a child on a temporary basis.
A Child Arrangements Order is an order specifying where a child should live; what contact he/she should have with important people in their lives and in some cases setting out other orders that have been made in relation to a child.
A Special Guardianship Order is also an order specifying with whom the child should live. Like Child Arrangements Orders it gives that person parental responsibility. However, it is specifically intended to be a permanent order and accordingly it has other characteristics as well. For example the special guardian may limit how other people with parental responsibility can exercise that. It is also much more difficult to discharge a Special Guardianship Order or to replace it with any other order. One would need to seek permission of the Court, which could only be obtained if a change of circumstances could be shown.
If your child is not living with you due to a Care Order, or Interim Care Order, social services have a duty to promote reasonable contact for you. The only exception to this is that they can withhold contact either for a short period of time in an emergency, or if they have the permission of the Court to withhold contact. If they ask for such permission, we can attend Court and object on your behalf.
Because of the nature of these proceedings, the hearings take place in private. The only people allowed into the court will be parties to the case, their lawyers and the witnesses unless the Court gives special permission for someone else to attend. The case cannot be publicised unless the court gives permission, which will only be given in the most exceptional circumstances.
At the end of the case there will be a final hearing, when the court decides what final orders to make (if any). Cases vary, but it usually takes several months from the beginning of a care case to a final hearing. The Courts aim to complete these proceedings within 26 weeks.
Grounds for Orders
Before a local authority can obtain either a Care Order or a Supervision Order, it has to prove the grounds, which lawyers call the “threshold criteria”. These are that the child is suffering significant harm, or is likely to suffer significant harm and that the harm is due to either the care given or likely to be given to the child being less than it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give or to the child being beyond parental control.
There are no specific grounds for Child Arrangements and Special Guardianship.
Special Guardianship Orders
Before making any order, the court has to be satisfied it is better for the child to make the order than not to do so and must also consider a “welfare checklist” which can be found on web page covering Child Arrangements Orders.
Parents are entitled automatically to Legal Aid for cases such as this. This means that our fees for acting for you are paid from public funds, and you do not have to contribute anything towards them. The only requirement is that you do not ask me to act in anyway that is unreasonable. If you did I would have to report this to the Legal Aid Agency who organise the legal aid scheme.