Children Solicitors in East London
We are specialist in childcare law and have years of experience advising public and private sector clients. We are qualified to practice in all types of children law work from private law orders like contact and residence to international adoption and abduction.
What are Private Law Orders?
This term is used to refer to orders under the Children Act 1989, which empower applicants with greater involvement in the lives of children. The main types of private law orders concerning a child’s upbringing are parental responsibility orders, special guardianship orders and child arrangement orders (formerly known as contact and residence orders). These will only be granted if it is in the best interests of the child.
There are other orders that we can advise you on to protect a child for whom you have parental responsibility such as prohibited steps order, which will prevent someone taking your child away from your care and control. Our expert solicitors can advise on these or any other family law matter.
Child Arrangement Orders
A person with parental responsibilities who wishes a child to spend time or stay with them can apply for a child arrangement order. Child arrangement orders, previously known as contact orders and residence orders, decide where a child lives, when they will spend time with each parent and when other types of contact will take place.
When a court is deciding where a child should live, or about contact between a child and a parent or other family member because an application for a child arrangement order has been made, it will try to ensure that the order is in the best interests of the child. When a child arrangement order is granted, both parents must follow its terms, whether or not they personally agree with it.
Special Guardianship Orders
Special guardianship orders co-exist with, but limit, parental responsibility. They allow an individual who is not a parent to become responsible for a child’s welfare and upbringing. Special guardians are usually relatives of a child or a foster parent. We act for special guardians and have experience of working with local authorities to help special guardians secure the right financial package to adequately care for the child.
A special guardian’s legal fees will often be met by the local authority as part of its obligations to the child to promote his or her welfare, especially if the child is in the care of the local authority and the special guardian is assessed by that authority. We fully understand the funding limitations of local authorities and can work on a fixed fee basis.
Applying for a guardianship order can be a complex process. Before an application is submitted, the relevant local authority must be given three months’ notice so that it can carry out an assessment of the suitability of the individual wishing to become a special guardian. Only once this has been done can an application for an order be made to the court.
However, there are certain circumstances when a local authority assessment is not required, such as where the applicant for special guardianship has a residence order for the child or is a relative that child has lived with for more than a year.
When the court is deciding whether to make one of these private law orders, it must always consider what is known as the welfare checklist. The checklist requires the court to have regard to a variety of issues, including:
- The wishes and feelings of the child;
- Their physical, emotional and educational needs;
- How a change in the child’s circumstances will affect them;
- Whether they have suffered any harm or are at risk of suffering harm;
- How capable any relevant individual, such as a parent, is at meeting the child’s needs.
Parental Responsibility Orders
Having parental responsibility means an individual has duties, as well as rights and powers, in relation to a child. It is usually straightforward to identify who has this responsibility, such as a mother, a married father or an unmarried father named on a birth certificate. However, there can be circumstances when a parent will only be recognised as responsible for a child once they are granted a court order.
A parental responsibility order grants an individual all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property. Although there is no limit to the amount of people who can have parental responsibilities in relation to a child, only a father, a spouse or civil partner of a parent with parental responsibility, or a second female parent of a child can apply for an order.
When a father is seeking a parental responsibility order, the court may ask itself the degree of commitment shown by the father to the child, the degree of attachment between them and the reasons why the father has applied for the order. The involvement of a parent in a child’s life is often presumed to further the child’s welfare, so in most cases the court will grant a parent’s application for an order relating to a child, so long as the child isn’t at risk of suffering harm.
We have a wealth of experience in childcare proceedings, having acted for local authorities and parents for many years. We understand that social services involvement can be a very daunting and traumatic process for parents who may be facing allegations of child abuse. In such circumstances the local authority may choose to take steps to remove your children. We can represent you during the proceedings in hearings such as:
- Child protection conferences;
- Emergency protection orders;
- Interim care orders;
- Care orders.
Although we do not take on legal aid cases, we can nevertheless provide legal advice at the pre-proceedings stage before legal aid is granted. This is an important stage and the right advice and representation can make the difference between whether or not the local authority decides to issue care proceedings to remove your child.
Contact Our Expert Family Team at Merchiston Solicitors
Contact us today for specialist advice from our Family and Child Law Solicitors. Call 0203 540 6340 to speak to one of our expert solicitors. Alternatively, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our online enquiry form.