Hopkins Law specialise in all aspects of child law, understanding the sensitivity and expertise required when dealing with what is in the best interests of children. Regularly instructed to represent parents, our team also has extensive expertise in representing the children both through their court appointed guardians and in certain circumstances, on the young person’s direct instructions.
To discuss any matter of law regarding your child please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone us on:
Cardiff – 029 2039 5888
Cowbridge – 01446 774 151
Chepstow – 01291 639 510
Quickly Resolving Issues
Regarding Child Law
Expert Legal Advice
We will provide you with expert legal advice to help you find the best possible arrangements for your children. We can advise you if social services are involved with your family or if you are looking to offer a permanent home to a child through special guardianship or adoption.
Acting with sensitivity and discretion, our expert solicitors can often bring matters to a successful conclusion for all involved without the need to go before a court.
Where A Child Lives & With Whom They Spend Time
Court Proceedings - A Last Resort When Dealing With Children Law
Initially there is often difficulty between the parents, with disagreements about where the child should live, how much time the child spends with the other parent, the residence, and issues with parental responsibility for the child. Court proceedings are a last resort where children are concerned. We mediate and advise and try to encourage parents to focus on the practical aspects of such a case, concentrating on which parent is better placed to cope with the children on specific days. Gradually parents come to accept that they, as well as the children, benefit from having a routine and framework to adhere to.
Child Arrangement Orders
[CAO] (previously known as residence and contact orders)
If a child’s parents cannot agree on the specific terms of where a child should live, or how often the parents should see the child, then an application can be made to the court for a Child Arrangement Order. If the parties reach an agreement the court may adopt the No Order principle on the basis that the parties have settled matters between themselves and do not need further input from the court. If an agreement cannot be reached the Court may impose an Order once it has considered all the evidence.
If you have requested, or been issued with an application for a CAO, then we can help explain the contents and advise you on how best to conduct your case.
Sadly it is all too common when parents cannot agree over the amount of time a child will spend with either parent. The disagreement can arise from any of the following factors:
Which parent the child will live with?
How often the child will see/stay with the other parent?
Who will take the child on holiday, and what happens if the other parent also wants the time?
How to bring up the child including lifestyle concerns such as religion, moral values, etc?
How often the child will see other relatives, including both sets of grandparents?
Many different factors are taken into consideration by the court when making decisions about a child. The principle consideration is protecting the welfare of the child. The court will look to what effect any change in circumstances may have on the child, together with the child’s wishes, depending on his or her age, understanding and educational and physical needs. A Family and Court advisor from Cafcass Cymru will make enquiries and help the parents and the court to come to the best decision for the children
We are often asked to act on behalf of parents who are facing difficulties in caring for their children. Sometimes this will result in the local authority taking action and trying to remove children from their parents’ care. If so, the children could be placed with family members or in foster care whilst decisions are made about their future. Ultimately the children could be returned to the parents, remain with family members or in long term foster care or even placed for adoption.
We have a specialist Child Care department headed by Kerry Mordey, a member of the Law Society’s Children Panel, who can advise you and ensure your position is fairly represented in court. Representation in care proceedings is funded by legal aid, regardless of your financial circumstances, so speak to us today, before the situation gets out of hand.
Below is an outline of the process involved in care proceedings.
Letter Before Proceedings
If the local authority believe that your child is not being looked after properly or is out of control, they may be thinking about whether to ask a court if your child should be taken into care. The first step is that they will write to you with a ‘letter before proceedings’ explaining why they think your child is not being looked after properly. It will also tell you to attend a meeting.
At this stage you should ask a solicitor for advice. If you want a say in how your child is looked after, it is important that you work with your local authority to deal with their concerns. You must show that you understand their concerns and that you are keen to do something about it.
The ‘letter before proceedings’ should be regarded as a final warning – don’t ignore it, and you should really speak to a solicitor.
You will be invited to a meeting to talk about the situation. At the meeting, you will talk about how the local authority can support you to change the way you look after your child. If you agree to make some changes, these will be written down in a formal agreement that you and the local authority have to follow. If you don’t agree, your local authority could well ask the court to take your child into care.
Keeping To The Agreement
You must keep to any agreement you make at the pre-proceedings meeeting and the local authority should keep to any agreements they make too. You will probably be asked to go to review meetings to check you are keeping to the agreement.
Going to court
If you don’t keep to the agreement or there are still serious or new concerns, the local authority will apply to a court to start care proceedings. You will have to go to court – possibly several times – until the court makes its decision about your child’s future. The court could decide that:
- Your child stays with you under a new agreement about how you will look after them.
- Your child moves in with a friend or family member.
- Your child goes into foster care.
- Your child should be adopted.
If your child is placed in care during the court proceedings, the local authority will continue to work with you to see if it possible for your child to be returned home to your care.
We Are Child Abduction Solicitors
When a relationship breaks down it can be very difficult to decide where children should live after the separation – this becomes more problematic when the two parents live in different countries. However, any parent who simply takes a child to a different country without consent is committing a criminal offence.
We know how traumatic such an event can be and we will act immediately to return your child to you through the appropriate legal channels.
Proceedings are commonly held in the High Court in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. We regularly travel to London to attend the courts and can accompany you or be there on your behalf.
NOTE: If you suspect that your child has been, or is about to be, abducted please contact us IMMEDIATELY as swift action is essential in these cases.
You can call us immediately on 029 2039 5888 or you can contact Kerry Mordey HERE
What is Child Abduction?
Parental child abduction is when a person connected to the child takes them away from their country of residence without the appropriate consent.
If all of the following exist, it is likely that the parent remaining behind can instigate child abduction proceedings.
- the child involved must be under 16 years of age
- the child has been removed from his/her usual country of residence or wrongfully retained in a country which is not their usual country of residence
- the removal or retention has taken place in breach of rights of custody of the left behind parent
- the left behind parent was exercising those rights of custody at the time the removal/retention took place
However, there may be a defence to the allegation of abduction, which could be one of the following:
- The left behind parent consented or acquiesced to the removal of the child
- The child would be at risk of grave harm if returned
- The child is now settled in the new country
If your child has been taken out of the UK to a country that has signed up to the Hague Convention or another international agreement, as specialists in that field we will take legal steps to return them to you as quickly as possible.
Where no agreement is in place, we will instruct specialist child abduction lawyers in that jurisdiction.
Legal proceedings are started in the country that the child has been taken to.
Child Abduction to and from the UK, and when it may be lawful
Abduction from the UK
If a child has been abducted to the UK, an urgent application can be made to the English court for the prompt return of the child to his or her home country.
Abduction to the UK
If a child has been abducted from the UK, an urgent application to the courts in the country to which the child has been taken will be required. The laws which apply and the way in which this is done varies between countries.
Abduction to a Hague Convention Country
If a child has been taken to a country which is signed up to the Hague Convention there is a presumption that the abducted child will be returned. There is a timescale of one year in which to apply and defences are limited.
Abduction to a non-Hague Country
Here the procedure is different, and may be slower. What the court may consider differs between countries, and it may not be automatically assumed that a child should be returned to England for their future to be decided by the courts in the UK.
Some countries, such as Egypt and Pakistan, have bi-lateral protocols in place setting out the considerations which will apply in such cases, and making provision for judicial co-operation between the two countries. We will be able to advise you on the specific laws relating to the country to which your child has been abducted.
When is abduction lawful?
A child can only be removed from England and Wales lawfully with the agreement of everyone who holds parental responsibility for the child, or by a Court Order.
A parent who holds a residence order for a child may take that child out of the UK for up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent.
How To Prevent
If you think there may be a risk of abduction, there are various measures you can consider to prevent your child being abducted:
- Insist that contact is supervised
- Ask for the child’s and/or parent’s passport to be surrendered – if this is not forthcoming, a Court Order can be applied
- Apply for a Court Order preventing removal of the child
- Notify the Passport Agency or Embassy to prevent any further passports being issued for the child
- Notify the ports and airports that there is a very real danger of child abduction.
In certain cases where the child needs to travel (but there is a concern of abduction) it may be appropriate to consider a form of security, such as a bond or a charge over property which will be forfeited by the child abductor if the child is not returned.
If you suspect a child abduction get in touch immediately.
Swift action is paramount in child abduction cases and if you are suspicious please call us immediately on 029 2039 5888 or please email HERE immediately and we will take action to help protect your child.
- Child Arrangement Order/Special Guardianship/Adoption applications
There is no automatic entitlement to legal aid for these applications regarding children. However, depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for Legal Aid and following a meeting, we will be able to establish if you are.
If you aren’t entitled to legal aid, we can advise you on what your options are.
- Care Proceedings
If you are the biological parent or a child who is the subject of the proceedings, you are automatically entitled to legal aid.
If you are neither of the above, you may be eligible depending on your circumstances and following a meeting, we will be able to establish if you are.
If you aren’t entitled to legal aid, we can advise you on what your options are.
When it isn’t possible for a child to live with their parents, the Court will be looking at what the most stable and permanent place for a child to live is. Special Guardianship Orders and Adoption are considered to be the most stable and permanent options.
The main difference between Special Guardianship Orders and Adoption is that Adoption changes the legal status of the child, cutting all legal ties with the birth family where Special Guardianship orders don’t.
Special Guardianship orders allows the people with parental responsibility for a child to continue to have parental responsibility but the Special Guardians have a larger percentage and have the last say in decisions about the child.
Each of these applications requires the involvement of the local authority and detailed assessments of the applicants. These Orders can only be made by applications to Court and our team can advise you and guide you through the process.