Why has my local authority sent me a letter before proceedings?
If you get a letter before proceedings, it’s because your local authority thinks your child is not being looked after properly or is out of control, and they are considering asking the court if they can take your child into care. The letter explains why they think this.
In every case, the reasons will be different. Sometimes it might be to do with your lifestyle. Sometimes it is because of your child’s health or because they are not going to school. Focus on what the letter tells you – not on other things that you think might be problems.
What happens if I don’t follow the instructions in the letter?
If you don’t go to the meeting that the letter asks you to go to, your local authority will almost certainly apply to the court to start care proceedings.
What are care proceedings?
Care proceedings are a formal process where a local authority asks a court to have your child taken into care
this would mean they would live with someone else. This can be for just a few weeks or until the court makes a final decision, which could be many months, and
gives the local authority “parental responsibility” for your child – this means that the local authority gets the legal right to make decisions about your child’s life, like whether they get medical treatment or where they go to school.
If I get a letter before proceedings, does it automatically mean my child will be taken into care?
No. It gives you a last chance to show your local authority that you are willing to agree to make changes to the way you look after your child. If you don’t take this chance, then your local authority will almost certainly start care proceedings.
Why are local authorities allowed to do this?
Local authorities have a legal duty to “safeguard, protect and promote the welfare of children” in their area. If a local authority thinks that a child is at risk of harm or neglect, it has to take action.
Your child’s social worker will explain why your local authority thinks your child is not being looked after properly or is out of control and what you can do about it. They will suggest things you can do to change the way you look after your child.
If your local authority thinks you are not changing the way you look after your child, it will send a letter before proceedings.
What do I have to do next?
You must go to the meeting your local authority has asked you to attend. The letter tells you when and where it is.
At the meeting, you can have your say about how your child should be looked after and put your side of the story across. Read carefully what your local authority has said in the letter about why they think your child is not being looked after properly, and decide whether or not you agree with them. If you agree, think about what you could do to change. If you don’t agree, you will need to say why.
Before that meeting, you also need to get help from a solicitor and ask them to come to the meeting with you.
Why do I need a solicitor?
You need a solicitor for two reasons:
1. Your solicitor will listen to what you say and help explain your point of view to your local authority.
2. The law about when a child can be taken into care is very complicated. Your solicitor can explain it to you and make sure your local authority is following the law.
At the pre-proceedings meeting, your local authority will have their solicitor with them.
How much will a solicitor cost?
Provided you have parental responsibility you don’t have to pay the solicitor for coming to the pre-proceedings meeting. This is because you can get legal aid. To get legal aid, all you need to do is take your letter before proceedings and some ID (driving licence, passport, etc) with you when you meet your solicitor. The solicitor will then apply for legal aid for you.
How do I choose a solicitor?
You need a solicitor that specialises in child care law. This is because it is a very complicated subject. So even if you have used a different solicitor in other situations, you should find someone who knows this area of the law. Brendan Fleming Solicitors have many years of experience in all aspects of family law.
We’re easy to find: Our address is 165 Newhall Street, St Paul’s Square, Birmingham B3 1SW. The 101 Bus stops directly across the road.
Phone: 0121 683 5000
Fax: 0121 226 8837
Or use our on-line contact form.
What information will I need to give my solicitor?
Your solicitor might also ask you for other information apart from the letter before proceedings and ID – such as documents that your child’s social worker has given you, school reports or medical information. If you have the information the solicitor asks for, you should give it to them.
Remember your solicitor is there to help you, so give them as much information as possible.
I don’t agree with what the letter says – what can I do?
If you disagree with what the letter says, you will have a chance to say why at the meeting. Tell your solicitor what you disagree with. They can help you explain your point.
Do I have to tell anyone about this?
No, but it’s often best to talk to your child’s other parent or a friend or family member you trust about the fact that you’ve had this letter. It can be difficult to talk about it, but they can support you and listen to you. They can also help you come up with ideas of how to change the way you look after your children.
Remember, getting a letter before proceedings does not mean your child will automatically go into care.
You need to show to your local authority that you are willing to work with them to take steps to change the way you look after your child.
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