Stages of Care Proceedings

Posted on: June 13th, 2023

Care proceedings commence when the Local Authority (social services) feel that a child is not safe in the care of a parent or guardian without the oversight of the professionals or that they could be at risk of suffering immediate harm. For any proceedings to commence there are protocol and procedures that are required to be followed. These can be broken down into the following stages:

Application – the Local Authority are required by the family court to make an application, this will need to contain information about the child(ren) they are worried about, the parents are care givers. It will also state what they are concerned about, what the recommend needs to happen to keep the child safe and what type of order they are seeking.

Following this application, a hearing date will be set, and a Notice of Hearing and Standard Directions Orders will be sent out by the court. These orders will confirm what action is required to be undertaken by parties prior to the First Hearing and what documents should be filed.

Case management hearing – this is usually the first court hearing that will take place within proceedings and will allow all the parties to discuss the main issues in the case and set a timetable for how matters should progress. The timetable will set out any future hearings and when any statements or reports should be filed. The court will aim to conclude proceedings within 26 weeks but in exceptional cases more time can be requested by way of an application to the court.

Issues Resolution hearing – this is a hearing that takes place following all assessment work being completed. The Local Authority have filed their final evidence, this will include what they think the right long-term plan would be. The parents/care givers will have provided their views on this by way of a written statement and the Children’s Guardian will have also filed a report setting what they think is the right plan.

Parties will try and agree a long term pan for the child(ren) and this would include issues such as where should the child(ren) live and who the child should see and how often.

Final hearing – if all parties can agree before this time what is the best plan for the children, then a final hearing will not need to take place. However, should a final hearing be required the court will then be asked to make the final decision as to what is the best plan for the children and if any kind of orders are required.

When proceedings do require a final hearing, the court will usually ask to hear from the parties (oral evidence) in person and this may also need any persons who have prepared reports attend and also give evidence. This means any parent may have to speak and answer questions in court.

Contact our family team today on or 01642 777680. We will be able to assist in assessing if you are eligible for funding and if not, what alternative options are available for you and your family. Court proceedings regarding your children will always be a worrying time, our team of specialist legal professionals are here to help and support you.

Prepared by Tracy Smith, Trainee Legal Executive

Tracey Smith

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