- I have received a letter before proceedings – what does this mean?
If you receive a letter before proceedings from social services it means that they are very worried about your child/children and are thinking about making an application to the court. It is important that you ask a solicitor to go to the meeting with you so they can advise you about the best way to try and avoid going to court.
- What is an interim Care Order?
An interim Care Order is an order that the court can make usually at the start of the proceedings. It is an order that gives the Local Authority parental responsibility for the child/children so that they can make decisions about where the child/children should live. This order usually lasts for the duration of the proceedings or until the court has all the evidence it needs to make a final decision about where the child/children should live in the long-term.
- What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is the legal rights and responsibilities that a parent has for their child. It means that they can make important decisions for the child such as where they should go to school and they can agree to any medical treatment. It also involves making day-to-day decisions for their child. A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth. A father has parental responsibility for his child if he is either married to the child’s mother or of he is named on the child’s birth certificate (if the birth is registered after 1st December 2003).
- Who is the ‘Children’s Guardian’?
When there are care proceedings in respect of a child/children, a CAFCASS guardian is appointed for the child/children. Their role is to ensure that the decisions made about the child/children are in their best interests whilst promoting the child/children’s welfare. The CAFCASS guardian is independent of the Local Authority and the other parties.
- I have a learning difficulty and I do not understand what is happening in court and what social services is asking me to do. What can I do?
It is really important that if you do not understand what is happening in court or what is being asked of you by social services that you ask your solicitor. If you have a learning difficulty, it is important to let your solicitor know at the earliest opportunity so they can arrange the support you need. Your solicitor can either explain things to you in a different way or if necessary, arrange for an advocate to support you. At Stone King, we have experience of working with clients who have learning difficulties and we pride ourselves on giving them the support they need to fully participate in the proceedings.
- I do not want my child/children to go into foster care, can a family member look after them?
If a Local Authority does not think it is safe for a child/children to stay with their parents, the Local Authority will ask them to provide names of family members who they would like to be put forward to be assessed as alternative carers. If those assessments are positive, then potentially the child/children can be placed with those suitable family members until a final decision can be made by the court.
- I have been asked to intervene in care proceedings, what does that mean?
If you have been asked to intervene in care proceedings it usually means that there has been an allegation made against you that needs to be determined by the court. You will not be the parents of the child but you may be another family member or someone who has come into contact with a child during a certain period of time. It is important that you ask a solicitor to represent you if you have been invited to be intervenor so that you can be advised about the allegations made against you.