At AFG LAW specialist solicitors from our large family law team are at court every day; this means we are ready to help you if there is an emergency and you need representation quickly.
Our emergency protection order solicitors understand that there isn’t much that is more frightening to a parent than rushing to court because children’s services are starting emergency court proceedings to remove your children. Our large team are experienced and will be there to help you when you need us the most.
The most common urgent hearings are when the local authority makes an application for an emergency protection order or an urgent interim care order. You may hear people talking about emergency protection orders as EPOs.
Applications for emergency protection orders are usually made by a local authority when a social worker has serious concerns about a child. Parents should usually have one day’s notice of the application but if the circumstances are particularly serious this can be reduced.
The court will make an emergency protection order if there is reasonable cause to believe that a child is likely to suffer significant harm if they aren’t removed from their parents’ care or kept in a safe place, such as a hospital.
Only a judge sitting in the Family Court can make an emergency protection order and will only do so if there is a genuine emergency. Emergency protection orders are supposed to be a short term protective measure. They give the local authority limited parental responsibility whilst the order is in place; this allows the local authority to do things like:
- Remove the child from their parents
- Keep a child where they currently are, e.g. hospital
- Prevent the child from returning to their parents
- See the child even if the parents refuse to cooperate
- Prevent someone they believe is a risk from seeing the child or being in the home
It does not mean that parents lose their parental responsibility if an emergency protection order is made, just that they will share parental responsibility with the local authority. The local authority can only use their parental responsibility to make decisions that safeguard or promote the welfare of the child and can only take steps that are reasonably required.
If an emergency protection order is granted by the Family Court then the Judge can also grant other powers such as the ability to enter someone’s home to search for a child they believe is being hidden and issue a warrant for police officers to support a social worker get access to a child. If an emergency protection order has been made it is a criminal offence to prevent someone from removing a child
A safety feature of emergency protection orders, and to make sure they are only being used in emergencies, is that they can not last more than 8 days. If the local authority wants an emergency protection order to last for longer they have to make a further application to extend it. We have provided information about police powers of protection here, the rules on emergency protection orders are so strict that if a child has been removed under police powers, which can be for up to 72 hours, the time limits for an emergency protection order start from the use of the police powers to protect children and parents from being away from each other for longer than the emergency period.
The local authority have a lot to do during the ‘emergency’ period allowed by the order and they must reach a decision about whether they are so worried about your child they will make an application for a care order or whether it is safe for your child to come back home to you. If the local authority investigate and decide it’s safe
During the time the EPO is in place the Court must consider allowing the child to have reasonable contact with their parents but this will depend on the circumstances of each family and what the concerns are. Contact could be in person supervised by a social worker or by telephone or video call.
If you are told that an application has been made for an emergency protection order contact our specialist EPO solicitors urgently