Court orders for children
Family courts can make various orders for children. These are:
- Child arrangement order (which can determine where a child will live and who they will have contact with)
- Specific issue order (an order that determines an important issue for a child eg education, medical treatment, religious upbringing etc)
- Prohibited steps order (an order that prevents a specified action involving a child eg the child may not be removed from school by a particular person)
- Special guardianship order
- Family assistance order (an order that tells the local authority to befriend, assist and support a particular person)
- Supervision order (an order that a local authority supervises the care of a child for a set period of time)
- Care order (an order that gives a local authority overriding parental responsibility for a child)
- Placement order (an order that a child can be placed with prospective adoptive parents)
- Adoption order (an order that changes the legal parentage of a child)
Who can request a court order?
If children’s services decide that the child cannot return to live with their birth parents, they need to secure a long term living option for the child. This means children’s services will go to court to obtain one of the above court orders to secure the child’s future stability.
Private individuals, eg foster carers, could also take a matter to court to secure the child’s future stability. For example, private foster carers with the parents’ consent might go to court to seek a court order that gives them parental responsibility for the child. Foster carers might want a court order that guarantees the child will remain in their care until age 18. Parents in conflict might go to court for a child arrangements order to settle disputes.
What support is there?
If children’s services have assessed you as a possible carer for the child, they may fund you to receive independent legal advice before the court appearance so that you fully understand the implications for yourself, the child and your family.
An independent person, called the children’s guardian who works for CAFCASS, will be at court to represent the child’s best interests. You may be visited by this person during court proceedings. You can visit their website for more information about the court process and the CAFCASS service at www.cafcass.gov.uk.
The children’s guardian, the birth parents, children’s services, and possibly you, will all have solicitors at court to speak for them. Everyone aims to consider the best interests of the child, which by law is the most important thing. However, everyone won’t necessarily agree about what is in the child’s best interests. The judge has the power to make any order open to him or her under the law, not just the option that has been requested. All the parties and their solicitors try to reach agreement about what they think is best for the child before going before the judge.