At Hannays Solicitors and Advocates Ltd., our specialist solicitors and lawyers in child law, understand the sensitivity and expertise required when dealing with the interests of children.
Children Law relates to:
- The Public Law Children Act proceedings such as applications for care orders by the local authority social services departments
- Private Law Children Act proceedings such as applications for Child Arrangement Orders where the court can consider with whom a child should live and with whom they have contact.
Lawyers who act on behalf of children need special experience and qualifications to represent children and other parties under the Children Act 1989. Our experienced solicitor Miss Gill Wright is a member of the Children Panel Accreditation Scheme and is a Resolution Accredited Domestic Violence and Children Law practitioner.
Many organisations for example CAFCASS and the Family Courts recommend using a member of the Children Panel Accreditation Scheme.
Accreditation with the Law Society Children Scheme lets you know that our practitioner’s skills, knowledge and experience has been rigorously and independently assessed. Only solicitors who meet the Solicitors Regulatory Authority’s exacting accreditation requirements and advanced disclosure checks are permitted to join the scheme. This also means that Miss Wright is able to represent the interests of the children in proceedings taking instructions either directly from the child where appropriate or through a Children Guardian.
Our children lawyers can help you with proceedings such as:
- Childcare Proceedings
- Child protection
- Child Arrangements orders ( formerly known as Residence and Contact disputes)
- Contact by Grandparents
- Emergency protection
- Parental responsibility
- Human rights
Child Arrangements Orders
(formerly known as Residence and Contact disputes)
We are experienced in acting for parents and children in situations where there is a dispute as to with whom a child should live or with whom they have contact and we understand how to work towards the best interests of the child.
Acting with sensitivity and discretion we provide our clients with emotional support and expert legal advice to help establish financial, lifestyle and contact arrangements.
Often issues arise from marital or relationship break down and there are disagreements regarding contact and parental responsibility of the child.
There are practical issues to resolve and agree upon:
- Where the children will live and with which parent
- How often the child sees the parent they are not living with
- Agreement on lifestyle concerns (religion, moral values, etc.)
- Holiday arrangements
- Contact with grandparents
We try to encourage parents to think of the practical aspects of child care, concentrating on which parent is best placed to cope with the children on specific days and to establish a framework that both parents can agree to.
If a child’s parents cannot reach an agreement then we can assist in application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order or if you have received notification that an Application has been made to the court we can help you present your side of the matter to the court to protect your rights where your children are concerned.
Many different factors are taken into consideration by the court when making decisions about children. The principle consideration is protecting the welfare of the child. The court will look to what effect any change in circumstances may have on the child, together with the child’s wishes, depending on his or her age, understanding and educational and physical needs.
Contact by Grandparents
Sometimes when a relationship between parents breaks down grandparents find that they lose contact with their grandchildren and cannot reach a mutually agreeable solution with the parents.
Grandparents may wish to consult a specialist family lawyer for information on court proceedings.
Grandparents don’t have an automatic right to apply for a court Order. First they have to apply to the court for permission to make the application for contact. The grandparent(s) must show that they have an important and meaningful connection with the child.
If a grandparent is granted leave to apply for a Child Arrangements Order, then the court will go on to consider their application in full.
An officer from the Children and Family court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) will be appointed to gather information and submit a report for the court to consider as part of the decision-making process. The court may or may not decide to have a full hearing, depending on whether the parent with care agrees with the CAFCASS report or whether the parties remain in dispute.
If the court decides that contact between the child and the grandparent(s) is in the child’s best interests, they may grant an order to this effect.
The court does have some powers to enforce Child Arrangement Orders making it very difficult for parents to ignore the decision of the court.
Child Care Proceedings
Our lawyers are often consulted by parents who are facing difficulties in caring for their children or for various reasons have their fitness to be a parent questioned.
This sometimes results in the Local Authority taking action and trying to remove children from their parents care. If so, the children could be placed in foster care or with other family members with parents consent or after a court hearing if agreement is not forthcoming.
Our specialist Child Care department headed by Gillian Wright, a member of the Law Society’s Children Accreditation Scheme, can advise you and ensure your position is fairly represented in court.
Usually the Local Authority will try and work with parents to address and resolve the concerns that they have. This can be dealt with under a Children in Need plan or if more serious concerns exist under a Child Protection Plan. If however, progress is not made then the Local Authority may write to you with a ‘letter before proceedings’ and they will invite you to attend a meeting with them.
At this stage if you have not done so already, you should ask a solicitor for advice. It is important that you work with the Local Authority to deal with their concerns, if you want to continue to have a say in how your child is looked after. You must show that you understand their concerns and that you are keen to do something about it.
At the meeting the Local Authority will discuss the situation regarding how you look after your children. The Local Authority will discuss the support that can be put in place to support and change the way you look after your children. If you agree to the changes, these will be written down in a formal agreement that you and the local authority have to follow. If you don’t agree or don’t keep to the agreement, the Local Authority may request the court to take your child into care.
If the Local Authority reaches this decision they will apply to a court to start care proceedings. You will have to go to court – possibly several times – until the court makes its decision about your child’s future. The court could decide that:
- Your child stays with you under a new agreement about how you will look after them.
- Your child moves in with a friend or family member.
- Your child goes into foster care.
- Your child should be adopted.
If your child goes into care, and until any final order is made by the court, the local authority should continue to work with you and undertake assessments in the hope that your child can be returned home to you.
Is Legal Aid available to help with care proceedings?
Representation in care proceedings is funded by legal aid, regardless of your financial circumstances, so speak to us today, before the situation gets out of hand.