What is a Pre-Proceedings Meeting?
A Pre-Proceedings Meeting is a requirement of the Public Law Outline. The Local Authority is required to inform the parents that they have concerns about their children and that Care Proceedings are being contemplated.
If you receive a Pre-Proceeding letter then you should contact your family law solicitor immediately.
We have specialist expertise in this area and you will be eligible for Legal Aid to cover the work we do at the meeting and for negotiations with the Local Authority before Proceedings are issued.
If you accept the concerns and wish to co-operate you will be expected to sign an agreement which outlines the action to be taken, review dates and what will happen should you not comply with the plan.
If you, as the parents, fail to attend the meeting or refuse to sign the agreement then a Legal Planning Meeting will be held immediately to prepare Proceedings and issue the Care Application.
What happens at Care Proceedings?
If a Local Authority has serious concerns about the safety or welfare of a child, it can apply to the Court to take the child into care.
The Local Authority will firstly ask the Family Court to make an Interim Care Order. Then the Local Authority Social Worker will carry out some investigations into your children’s welfare and suggest a Care Plan.
The Care Plan outlines what they think should happen to your children, including whether they think your children should be taken into Care or stay in the family
The Care Plan will be given to the Family Court to help it make the final decision about what should happen to your children
If you do not agree with the Local Authority’s Care Plan for your children we can advise you and put forward your objections. Your child will also have an Independent Reviewing Officer appointed to review the Local Authority’s Care Plan and you can speak to them and attend reviews to give your views.
All Care Proceedings must be resolved within 26 weeks by the Family Court. This time limit will only be extended if the Court decides that an extension is necessary to resolve the case “justly.” Exceptions may arise where there is complex medical evidence, international involvement or if the parents have disabilities.
There will normally be assessments to help decide whether children can safely remain at or return home or whether they should stay in Care.
There may also be assessments of other family members or friends who may be suitable Carers if children are not able to safely return home. There may also be work with the parents to reduce any risk there may be.
What will happen in the end?
The Judge will listen to everyone involved in the case including you, your solicitor, the Local Authority Social Worker and the Cafcass worker before making a decision.
If the judge is satisfied that it is safe to do so, then the children will go back home. For others, the Local Authority will find them a new home. That may be with other members of their family or with friends, or it may be with a new family.
Adoption and Special Guardianship are complex issues that arise at a time that is often emotionally fraught for all those involved.
Want to learn more about family law?
- Guide to Adoption & Special Guardianship
- Guide to Child Protection
- Guide to Contact & Specific Issues Orders
If you need more advice then contact our experienced team of Family Law solicitors in Liverpool or Southport now.