Disputes about Children

You may have a dispute with the other parent of your child or even Social Services regarding the care of your child.  White & Co has extensive experience and expertise in assisting parents regarding the care arrangements for their child.

Services offered are set out below.

Legal Aid is available if social services are considering removal of your child.

We can assist you if social services make allegations or become involved with your child.  There are different courses of action social services could take depending on how concerned they are.

Pre Proceedings/Public Law Outline (PLO)

There may come a time when you may struggle to provide proper care for your children and you may require some support and guidance. For example, Social services may think you are not providing good enough care for your children and they may want to discuss this issue with you face to face. They may provide you with a ‘pre proceedings’ letter, also known as a PLO (Public Law Outline) letter, seeking for you to attend a meeting with a legal representative.  It is advisable for you to consult a solicitor to advise you in advance of the meeting or to write letters on your behalf. There will always be a number of options open to you and it will be important for you to have legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

Child Protection Plan/Conference

They may also arrange a Child Protection Conference and seek for your child/children to be made subject to a Child Protection Plan if they are concerned your child are at risk of harm.

Child in Need Plan

Social services may consider that your child has needs and wish to offer you services to ensure those needs are met.  A Child in Need (CIN) plan could be put in place setting out the services to be offered to you.  A Child in Need plan is voluntary.  You may be concerned about social services’ involvement in this situation or may consider that social services are not providing sufficient services.  We are able to advise and assist you.

Voluntary Accommodation/Section 20 Accommodation

Sometimes Social Services may ask you to consider entering into a formal agreement with them so that they may look after your child in foster care by consent under section 20 Children Act 1989 (also known as voluntary accommodation). Social Services may wish you to adhere to a list of rules and ask you to sign a written agreement. You should always seek legal advice prior to entering in to a formal agreement. It may be that entering in to such an agreement will achieve the best outcome for you and your child/children but it is always best to take legal advice to understand the implications before finalising an agreement.

Police Protection

Usually, social services cannot remove your child from your care without your consent or a court order.  In serious circumstances, they can ask the police to use their ‘police protection powers’ to authorise the removal of your child for up to 72 hours.

You should seek legal advice in all of these circumstances.  White & Co are able to assist you in all situations, no matter how little notice you are given of action being taken by social services.

If social services issue care proceedings, we will represent you within those proceedings.

Legal Aid is available for advice and representation and so there will be no cost to you to be represented in these proceedings.

If social services have issued court proceedings to seek a Care Order, Supervision Order or Emergency Protection Order (EPO) for your child, contact us urgently.  We will be able to help you and ensure you are represented in the proceedings and at the Court hearings.  

Care Order

If an Interim Care Order (ICO) is granted at a hearing, social services will share Parental Responsibility with you and may use that responsibility to remove the child into foster care.

Supervision Order

If social services have concerns but do not seek to remove your child from your care, they may issue proceedings to seek a Supervision Order instead.  A Supervision Order will allow the local authority to offer advice and assistance and to befriend the child.  An Interim Supervision Order (ISO) may be made at an initial hearing.

Emergency Protection Order

If an emergency situation arises and there is a concern that your child is at risk of imminent harm, the local authority may apply for an Emergency Protection Order to remove your child from your care on a short term basis.  A hearing will be listed at very short notice.

Placement Order

If at the conclusion of care proceedings, social services take the view that you are not able to provide good enough care for your child, they may apply for a Placement Order.  They will do so if their care plan is for your child to be adopted.  If the court is of the view it is in your child’s best interests to be placed for adoption, they will grant a Placement Order dispensing with your consent to the adoption and authorising the local authority to place your child with prospective adopters.  White & Co fully appreciate how devastating this would be and will advise and assist you and can represent you in the proceedings to contest the application.

We are here to assist parents in all of these circumstances and to provide advice and representation at court.

If any of these court proceedings are pursued then social services will have a lawyer of their own.  An independent person will be appointed to represent the child who is known as the Guardian and he/she will appoint a lawyer for the child.

It is important, therefore, that a parent also has the benefit of good legal representation.

There may also be circumstances where you are not the parent but an allegation has been made against you and you have been invited to ‘intervene’ in Court proceedings.  In these circumstances, you will be known as an intervenor.  We can represent your interests in those Court proceedings.

You may be a relative or a foster carer who wishes to offer long term care for a child. White & Co can advise you from first thinking about taking on a child long term, through to the preparation of court forms, notices to be given to various people and representation in the courts. Clear explanations will be given throughout the process.

Alternatively you may be a parent who wishes to oppose the plans for your child to be cared for permanently by someone other than yourself. White & Co can advise you throughout and represent you in the proceedings.

Adoption

We can expertly advise on this complex area of law in which we have extensive experience. If you are caring for a child, or propose to care for a child and you are not the natural parent you should take advice as to the various options open to you to safeguard the position of yourself and the child.  We can advise you at every stage of the adoption process, issue an application for Adoption Order on your behalf and represent you within those proceedings.

You may be the natural parent who wishes to oppose an application for Adoption Order. White & Co. offer a comprehensive service to advise, assist and represent parties in this situation.

Special Guardianship Order

If you are applying for a Special Guardianship Order, we can advise you on the content of the Special Guardianship assessment and support plan and make representations on your behalf.

You may be a family member who has had a viability assessment in care proceedings and wish to know what options are available in terms of the long term care of the child.  If a viability assessment is undertaken and is negative, we can advise you on the content and assist you in challenging the assessment.

White & Co are experienced in all of these situations and can offer expert advice and assistance.

We act in disputes concerning children including applications for Child Arrangements Orders (formerly known as Contact Orders and Residence Orders or custody and access), Specific Issue Orders and Prohibited Steps Orders.

If you are living apart from the other parent of your child you may have difficulties in resolving disputes about arrangements for where your child should live and how much time they spend with the non-resident parent.  You may also be concerned about possible parental alienation.

White & Co offer a sympathetic ear and advice based on an understanding of how difficult these issues can be to resolve.

We pride ourselves on attempting to resolve family disputes without unnecessary court proceedings and always in the best interests of the child.

We can assist you in negotiating appropriate arrangements for your child or in court proceedings where necessary.

We can also apply for Parental Responsibility Orders and any other orders required, relating to children.