What You Need To Know About Care Proceedings - The First Hearing

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24 June 2024

What You Need To Know About Care Proceedings - The First Hearing


In the 2nd of a 3-part series on care proceedings, Childcare Solicitor Sydnee Marsh details what to expect in the first hearing...


All Care Proceedings are heard in the Family Court.


Your matter may be heard before:


  • Lay Justices (also known as Magistrates);
  • A District Judge;
  • A Circuit Judge; or
  • A High Court Judge

All care cases are dealt with under guidelines known as the protocol for judicial case management in public law children act cases (also known as the Public Law Outline / PLO).


No final decisions are made at this very early stage.


A children’s Guardian will be appointed. They work for CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).


  • The Guardian is independent of the Local Authority.
  • The Guardian will make their own enquiries.
  • The Guardian will want to speak to the parents and any other involved family members.
  • The Guardian will also talk to the child (depending on their age) and will directly seek their wishes and feelings about what they would like to happen.
  • If the child is of a sufficient age and understanding they may disagree with the Guardian and may have their own separate solicitor.
  • The Guardian will make a recommendation to the Court as to the child’s best interests and welfare for the future. This will be provided in a written report.


At the first Hearing, the Court will need to consider:


  • Whether or not to make an Interim Care Order or some other Interim Order, and/ or
  • Whether to make any initial directions as to how the case will progress and how the evidence will be produced.

How does the Court make a decision?


The Court first of all has to consider whether it believes that the child has been significantly harmed or is at risk of being significantly harmed in the future.


The Judge will carefully consider the “threshold criteria”.


The “threshold criteria” is that:


1.       Your child has suffered significant harm or is likely to suffer significant harm; and

2.       The harm was caused by the care you have given your child falling below what would be reasonably expected of a parent to give, or because your child is beyond parental control.


“Harm” does not only refer to physical abuse of the child themselves.


Based upon the Judges findings with regard to the threshold criteria having been met, the Judge will then make the decision with regard to what type of Order is made.


The Court could make a number of different Orders, this will be in accordance with the “welfare principle” and following the “welfare checklist.”, which will be detailed further in our next installment.  

Sydnee Marsh