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29 Care Proceedings

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1. Introduction

2. Who can make decisions about my child´s care?

3. Why would the council get involved in my child’s care?

4. What if the council thinks my child is in immediate danger?

5. What should happen before the council decides to apply for a care order?

6. Can I get help to pay for a lawyer?

7. What happens when the council starts care proceedings?

8. Who will represent my child during proceedings?

9. What happens at the First Appointment?

10. What orders can the court make at the First Appointment?

The council will make proposals to the court about where your child should live and who they should see in the time until the final hearing of the case (known as an ‘interim care plan’). The court considers this and can then make an ‘interim order’ that says what should happen to your child for the time being. The court can make several types of interim order at the First Appointment:

Interim care order (ICO)
An ICO is an order which gives the council the power to say where your child will live, even if you don’t agree, and to remove your child from home. Under an ICO, the council will share parental responsibility for your child with you.

The court can only make an ICO if it decides there are good reasons to believe your child has been seriously harmed or is likely to be seriously harmed, and that an ICO is the best thing for your child. The order can last for up to eight weeks to begin with, and can be renewed for four-week periods after that.

The court can also make an ‘exclusion requirement’ alongside the ICO, which can force an adult to leave your child’s home if the court believes this person is a danger to your child. However, this can happen only if you agree to make sure the person does leave and stays away. If you do not agree, the court may take another type of action to protect your child, such as removing him or her from home.

When the council applies for an ICO, it must have prepared a social work statement setting out its concerns and an interim care plan. It must show that it has discussed the care plan with you and your child (if this is possible) and that the plan properly pays attention to your child’s racial, cultural and religious heritage. The council will ask the court to agree to this plan.

If you disagree with the care plan and you feel that someone in your family could look after your child up to the final hearing, you should tell the council, your solicitor and the court so that the court can consider what is best for your child. If you have not already been offered one, you could ask for a Family Group Conference to be arranged (see ‘What should happen before the council decides to apply for a care order?’ for further information).

Interim supervision order
An interim supervision order does not give the council parental responsibility or the right to remove your child from your care, but it does mean that the council must monitor how your child is being cared for, either by you or by someone else in the family who is looking after them. The court can make this type of order only if it decides that there are good reasons to believe your child has been seriously harmed or is likely to be seriously harmed, and that this is the best thing for your child.

Interim residence order
The court can make an interim residence order if it agrees that someone else, for example a family member, can care for your child until the final hearing. You would then share parental responsibility for your child with the person named in the order, and the council would not have parental responsibility.

Interim contact order
The court must consider what arrangements are proposed or have been made for your child to see members of their family if he or she is not living at home. The court must also invite the people involved to comment on the arrangements.

If there is any disagreement about these arrangements or the court is not satisfied that what is proposed is best for your child, then it can make a contact order setting out what the arrangements for contact should be. If you are not happy with the contact arrangements, discuss them with your solicitor so that your views are presented to the court.

11. What happens after an interim order is made?

12. How do I prepare for the final hearing?

13. What happens at the final hearing?

14. How does the court make its decision?

15. What types of order can the court make?

16. What must the council do after a care order is made?

17. How can I apply to end a care order?

18. Further help

19. About this leaflet

The leaflets in this series give you an outline of your legal rights. They are not a complete guide to the law and are not intended to be a guide to how the law will apply to you or to any specific situation. The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since this was written, so information in it may be incorrect or out of date.

If you have a problem, you will need to get more information or personal advice to work out the best way to solve it. See ‘Further help’ for sources of information and advice.

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Family Rights Group.

Leaflet Version: October 2008

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