Our experienced solicitors are regularly contacted by parents who want their children back and who believe that, since the court first made the care orders for their children, they have made changes and want the Court to look again at their situation and discharge the care orders. Care orders usually remain in force until a child reaches the age of 18 but one of the ways they can come to an end more quickly is following the successful application for the order to be discharged made by someone who has parental responsibility, the child or the local authority.
At AFG Law our solicitors can help explain the law, process and give you straightforward advice.
How do I discharge a care order?
If you are a parent with parental responsibility you will need to make an application, the court can’t discharge a care order by itself – it needs an application before it. The local authority is under a duty to review all children that are in their care and should also make an application to discharge a care order if they believe that a care order is no longer needed.
How long does it take to discharge a care order?
It depends on the circumstances of each case and whether or not the application is agreed. If the Local Authority opposes the application and believes the care order hould remain in force the proceedings will take longer than if everyone believes the care orders are no longer necessary and the children can go home.
What does the court look at when its being asked to discharge the care order?
If a parent makes an application to discharge a care order they must show good reasons for why the court should remove the care orders and change the plan for the children e.g. why it is in the children’s best interests to go home and not stay where they are, that it is better for the children for the care order to be removed than it staying in place. The court will look at all the relevant circumstances and the welfare of the children is always the court’s most important consideration. At the hearings in the discharge proceedings it is not appropriate to attack the evidence the court considered when it made the care orders or prove that the care order threshold criteria no longer apply instead there are a number of different steps the court must take:
- The judge must take into account the children’s welfare as it is the court’s ‘paramount consideration and the relevant factors of the welfare checklist must be considered and given appropriate weight
- Once the court has looked at the children’s welfare it must ensure it is using its powers in a way that ensures any interference with human rights is necessary and proportionate
- The applicant must show the care order should be discharged by producing evidence that shows it would be in the best interests of the child, the circumstances that were in place when the care order was made will be relevant to the court but how much weight is put on them will depend on each case
- The court is looking at the children’s welfare at the time of the discharge application. The threshold statement at the time the care order was made is not relevant; the local authority doesn’t have to prove it is still there and the parent doesn’t have to prove it doesn’t apply.
Applications to discharge care orders are quite specialist and it helps to have early legal advice so you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your position. It is even more important to get realistic legal advice as, if your first application to discharge a care order is refused, you have to wait 6 months before making another application unless you get permission from the Judge. Our solicitors can help and can also help you identify areas that you need to address. Contact AFG LAW today about discharging the care orders for your children.
Can I get legal aid to help discharge a care order?
Yes but it is means and merits tested. That means that you have to be on a low income AND will first have to convince the Legal Aid Agency that you have a good chance of being successful with the application to discharge the care order.