We understand that this can be a stressful time in parents and children lives so we approach such matters with sensitivity whilst at the same time bringing to bear our extensive family law experience to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your children during this difficult period.
Lauren Davey of our offices is a member of the Law Society of Northern Ireland’s Children Order Panel. The Children Order Panel means those solicitors accredited by the Law Society to represent parties in all public law proceedings under the Children (NI) Order 1995. In order to secure admission to the Panel a solicitor must demonstrate to the Law Society Board that they are qualified and experienced to represent parties in public law proceedings.
Ms Davey has built up a substantial portfolio of clients over many years in practice which is a testament to the high regard in which she is held and she has appeared for many parents in family courts.
The primary legislation governing the law on children is the Children (NI) Order 1995. The guiding ethos of the legislation is to be found in Article Three of the Order which states that in any children law court case “the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.”
Our Practice has a considerable history of conducting all types of Children Order cases and have appeared on behalf of parents at all levels of Family Courts in Northern Ireland.
There are a number of applications that can be made by any parent under the Children Order. These include:
A Residence Orders - A residence order determines which parent will have custody of the child and defines the living arrangements for that child until they attain the age of sixteen years. The court will consider the best interests of the child and may also request a welfare report from Social Services on the proposed family arrangements before making a determination as to with which parent a child should reside.
A Contact Orders - A contact order sets out the arrangements for visitation rights or staying rights in respect of the child. Again the court will look at the interests of the child before deciding what, if any, level of contact should be granted. In the absence of agreement between the parents the court will define the contact terms. Grandparents are also entitled to apply for a contact order under the Children Order.
A Parental Responsibility Order - Where a child’s mother and father were not married to each other at the time of his birth the court may order, on application of the father, that he shall have parental responsibility for the child. This means the father then has a legal right to be involved in decisions about the child’s care and upbringing. This would be required, for instance, if a father wanted to be provided information by the child’s school, see their medical records and gives the father legal authority to be involved in important decisions about their life.
A Prohibited Steps Order - The Family Court can direct that no steps can be taken in respect of any child without the consent of the court. Such an order would be imposed if the court had concerns for the welfare of the child.
A Specific Issues Order - This is an Order given by the court for the purpose of determining a specific question which has arisen in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for a child such as a change of a child’s surname or removal from the jurisdiction; if a residence order is in force then no person can cause the child to be known by a new surname or remove him from the UK for more than a month without the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility or applying to the court for its permission.
If you believe you may require help with any of these matters or any other children issues please contact our offices for advice.
We have also been instructed by parents in public law cases where the Health Trust, for whatever reason, have chosen to intervene in family life. We are experienced in the different issues that can arise in such situations, be it an application for removal of a child from the family home by the Trust or an Article 56 investigation into the child’s circumstances. There are various actions that can be taken by the Trust under the Children Order. They include: -
Pre Proceedings Meetings - We have represented parents at Pre Proceedings meetings and attended alongside parents when they have met with social services. These arise when the Trust write to parents setting out their concerns and inviting them to a meeting. The aim is to try and prevent the child being taken into care and to see if it is possible to agree a safe care plan with parents. Legal Aid is always available for the legal costs of attending such meetings and if you receive this letter it is essential that you speak to us as soon as possible so we can offer you the proper legal advice.
Article 50 Care Order - A Trust may apply to the Court for an Order placing a child with a designated authority or under their supervision. The Court may only make such an order if it is satisfied the child has suffered or likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the care given to him or is beyond parental control. The reasons why the Trust may take such action could vary from the child suffering what they believe to be a non-accidental injury or the child is showing signs of neglect or there are concerns about the parents’ lifestyle. There can be few more traumatic events in the life of a family than facing the prospect of a child being taken into care. It is not a decision taken lightly by a court so it will closely examine the family environment before taking such a step. It is imperative, therefore, that any parent in such a position has an experienced family law solicitor at their side during the legal process representing their interests. Our office has a wealth of experience of the issues that can arise in such cases so can provide insight, guidance and effective legal advice to any parent. The state recognises the significance of care orders by granting legal aid for the legal costs of any parent, regardless of their means, facing a Trust application.
Education Supervision Orders - These occur when the Education Authority are concerned that the child is not being properly educated. They can then apply to the court for an order putting the child under the supervision of the Education Authority.