"Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation."
Every local authority has a duty to make sure that children are safe and protected from harm. If social services are worried about your child’s welfare and are thinking about starting court proceedings, it is vital that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible.
At McAlister Family Law we have one of the largest and specialised child care team in the country. A number of our solicitors are members of the Law Society’s Children Accreditation Scheme which means that they are approved to represent children and are highly experienced in child care proceedings. Our team have been representing children, parents and other family members for more than thirty years. Our specialists can advise on the full range of issues including child neglect, cases of complex medical matters as well as applications involving allegations of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
The local authority can start ‘care proceedings’ if they are worried about a child and can apply to the Family Court for a care order. They can also apply for a placement order if they believe a child cannot safely be returned to his/her parents or other family members, and should be adopted. This allows the council to place the child with suitable adopters.
If your child is taken into care because of a care order, your local council will share parental responsibility with you for making most of the important decisions about your child’s upbringing, including:
It can take up to 26 weeks for a court to decide what should happen to a child. Some complex cases can take longer.
During the court proceedings, the parents and relatives will be assessed by social services and an independent guardian (CAFCASS officer) will be appointed by the court to represent the child. Your child will also have his own solicitor who is usually appointed by the independent guardian. At the end of the case, the court will take into account all of the assessments, the statements of the parents and the recommendation of the guardian before making a final decision.
Public funding (legal aid) is usually available to help parents get the expert advice and representation that they need in child protection cases.
Our practitioners are well known across the field as they are members of a number of organisations including the Association of Lawyers for Children, and Child Concern. They also sit as members of the Greater Manchester Family Justice Board and the Greater Manchester Family Forum.
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