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29 Care Proceedings

Download Care Proceedings (PDF File 502kb)

1. Introduction

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

The right to decide how a child is raised and cared for rests with people who have ‘parental responsibility’ for him or her. Parental responsibility is the legal term used to describe all the rights and duties that parents (and sometimes other people) have towards their children. For example, it gives you the right to agree to medical treatment for your child, or to your child being taken outside England and Wales.

When a child is born, the mother automatically has parental responsibility. So does the father, if:

  • he is married to the mother at any time after the child is born; or
  • he is registered as the father on the baby’s birth certificate (for children born after 1 December 2003).

If neither situation applies, the father of the child can still get parental responsibility by:

  • making a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother;
  • re-registering the child’s birth (if the father was not on the birth certificate and the mother signs a statutory declaration that he is the child’s father);
  • applying to the court for a parental responsibility order; or
  • applying to the court for a residence order.

A step-parent, including a same-sex registered civil partner, can also obtain parental responsibility by entering into an agreement with each parent who already has parental responsibility. Other people caring for children may also get parental responsibility if they obtain a court order, such as a residence order or special guardianship order.

The local council will get parental responsibility if it obtains a care order from the court (see ‘What types of order can the court make?’).

And adoptive parents automatically get parental responsibility when they adopt a child (or a child is placed with them for adoption by an adoption agency). The birth parents and anyone else who had parental responsibility lose it when a child is adopted.

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?

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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