Each case is different. We will explain the issues in your case in more detail. This is a guide to the main stages in this type of case.
The Local Authority might actually apply for one of a few different Orders. These are an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) a Care Order (CO) or a Supervision Order (SO). The can apply for an interim Order until a final decision in the case has been made by the Court. This is where the terms Interim Care Order (ICO) and Interim Supervision Order (ISO) come from.
An application for an Order has to be made by the local authority to the court for a hearing date to be set. You will be told once the application has been considered by the court and it has given a time and date for the first hearing.
2. The First Hearing
The first time you go to court the court will decide what immediate steps are necessary to safeguard the welfare of the child(ren) by:-
- Determining with whom the child(ren) will live at this stage
- Identifying the appropriate level of Judge before who the proceedings should be heard and the correct court
- Transferring the case if necessary
- Consider who should be a party to the proceedings
- Where the proceedings are not transferred to another court, make initial case management decisions
- Obtain confirmation that all those who are entitled to know about the case have been served with (sent) notice of the case.
- Consider whether any other person should be joined as a party
3. Allocation Hearings
These are hearings where the court sets a timetable as to how the case will be run. If the matter is transferred to the Care Centre or to the High Court all further hearings in the proceedings will be conducted by no more than two judges who are identified as Case Management Judges. One of these two Judges will be the Judge who conducts the final hearing.
4. Case Management Hearing(s)
These are court hearings to determine in greater detail the time table for the case and to decide upon what experts or witnesses are to be involved in the case.
5. Statements of Evidence
These have to contain all the things the parties want the court to know about their views on the case. Unless it is in a Statement of Evidence then evidence cannot be given at any final hearing. Usually if the case has been going on a long time then an up-to-date statement will be able to be filed just before the final hearing. This means that all documents prepared for the case and what These are all confidential.is said in court may not be disclosed to anyone who is not involved in the case without permission of the court. Breach of confidentiality would amount to a contempt of court which is punishable by imprisonment or a fine.
6. Final Hearing
If the case cannot be settled by agreement, there will be a final hearing when the court will decide what will happen to the child. At this hearing, the local authority will start the case by setting out their case (through their solicitor or barrister) and giving their evidence in the form of the social worker’s statement. They can call any other witnesses or experts to support their case. Then it is the turn of the persons who have not made the application to give their evidence and call their witnesses, i.e., the parents and any other parties to the proceedings. After that, the children’s guardian gives their evidence and at the end the legal representative of all parties make final submissions to the court. All witnesses may be cross examined by the other parties to the case. The court then makes its decision.
All hearings are held in private which means they are not open to the public. Only the people directly involved are allowed into the courtroom.
Appeals can only be made if the decision of the court is wrong in law or is perverse. Appeals cannot be made just because one party does not like the decision that has been made by the court.
8. Attendance of Children at Court
It is extremely rare for children to go to court and they should only do so if they are specifically asked to do so by the court.
We have included a Glossary of Terms on our website for you to read so we can explain in more detail what some of the more complicated legal terms mean.