If your child is being looked after by a Local Authority under an Interim or Full Care Order or an Emergency Protection Order you will normally still have the right to have some Contact with your child unless the Court gives the Local Authority permission to refuse this.
The following are entitled to have contact with the child
- the parents
- a Guardian or Special Guardian
- anyone who had a Residence Order immediately before the Care Order was made
- Step parents with Parental responsibility
The Contact must be reasonable which normally means whatever can be agreed by the parents with the Local Authority. The Local Authority can suspend Contact for up to 7 days in an emergency but this must be necessary to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.
The Local Authority should take positive steps to arrange for the child to be in touch with members of the family network unless that is not in the best interests of the child.
If Contact with your child will involve travel or other expenses which you cannot meet due to “undue hardship” and this will put Contact at risk the Local Authority can help with these expenses.
How is Contact Arranged?
You should get expert legal advice from a Lawyer specialising in Child Care Proceedings before making your Application to the Court. We are able to guide you through this process. Legal Aid should be available to cover your Costs.
The Court will consider the following
- the nature of the Application
- the Applicant’s connection with the child
- any risk of disruption to the child’s life caused by the Application to the extent that the child may be harmed by it
- any plans the Local Authority have for the child
- the wishes and feelings of the child’s parents
The Court must hear the evidence and then apply the principles on welfare set out in the Children Act.
This requires the Court to
- make the welfare of the child the paramount consideration
- consider the child’s wishes and feelings, their physical and emotional needs, any risk of harm, the effect of any change in circumstances, the age, sex and background of the child and the extent to which the parents or others are capable of meeting the needs of the child
- not make an Order unless it will positively benefit the child
The Court can then define how Contact will take place and attach any conditions it feels appropriate covering issues such as where Contact will take place or how often it will occur.
These are complex issues but if you are seeking Contact with a child in Care we can help you through every stage of the process.