Care Orders

Under the 1989 Children Act, a local authority can apply for a care order if it believes that a child is suffering or is at risk of suffering significant harm. If made, a care order will give the local authority parental responsibility, which it will share with all those who already have it and it will allow the local authority to make decisions about with whom the child should live. The care order will last until the child is 18 years old unless it is discharged sooner.

When a local authority applies for a care order, care proceedings will start at Court. The court case will last six months and while the case is on-going the local authority can have an interim care order, so that it can make decisions about the child during the Court case. During the Court case the local authority will have to investigate the circumstances of the child and may assess the child’s parents and other potential carers to help decide where the child should live at the end of the case.

If you have received any Court paperwork or an interim care order or final care order, it is in your beset interests to seek professional legal advice as soon as you can. At Cartwright King, we take a non-judgemental, professional approach to our client’s cases and acknowledge your right to legal representation. Our acclaimed child care solicitors are available to put your mind at ease by supporting you through the legal proceedings and representing you in court if the need arises.

Free initial telephone consultation

Everyone has the right to advice if they are dealing with child care issues. Our experienced lawyers are available at any time of the day or night to help you. Our highly skilled child care team are here to take the worry off your hands.

We will happily provide an initial free telephone consultation to discuss your situation in more detail and if you are happy to proceed with our services, we will assess you for legal aid and if you don’t qualify you will either be quoted an estimated or a fixed fee on a private fee paying basis. Our fees will be dependent on a variety of factors such as what your case entails and its duration. Please feel free to call us for a no obligation quote on 0808 168 5550 or email

What is a care order?

A care order is an order that places a child in the care of a local authority and gives the local authority parental responsibility for a child. The local authority will be able to make decisions about the child’s life including with whom the child should live.

A care order is usually applied for by the Social Services Department of the Local authority but on the rare occasion the NSPCC may apply. Once applied for, care proceedings at Court will begin. Care orders can be ‘final’, which means they are made at the end of the Court case, or ‘interim’ which means they are made while the Court proceedings are going on. If a care order is made, whether interim or final, the child that the order relates to is placed under the care of the local authority, giving them parental rights over the child. This means that the authority of the child’s parent can be overridden if the local authority believes their decision serves in the best interest for that child and means that the local authority can say where the child should live.

Care orders cannot be made if a child has reached the age of 17 or 16 if the child is married. Care orders usually continue up until the child is 18 however they can be cancelled at an earlier time than this. This is referred to as having the order ‘discharged’.

Whether there is an interim or final care order, the local authority will regularly review the child’s arrangements, including the child’s contact with family members and the child’s health, medical and educational needs. These are included in the child’s care plan. All local authorities have to appoint an independent reviewing officer who will ensure that the child’s care plan meets his or her needs and that the local authority complies.

Why is a care order made?

Care orders are applied for because the local authority is worried about the care being given to a child. While the local authority will have a view on who is responsible for this, you may not agree with it. Parents are given the chance to argue their view during the Court case, and that is what we can do for you.

Even if the local authority wants a care order, only the Court can make them. To make a care order, the judge will have to be satisfied that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and;

  • the harm is because of the care the child is receiving from a parent and that care is not what you would expect from a reasonable parent(s); or
  • where the child is beyond parental control.

This is called the “threshold”.

If a care order is granted, the local authority then becomes responsible for making sure that the child receives the appropriate care and that they are looked after by suitable carers.

If there is a care order, who will look after the child?

The local authority has a duty to try to keep the child within the family if that is safe for the child and in their best interests. This means that the local authority has to consider whether both parents can look after their child. The local authority has to also look at whether other family members (or other people connected to the child) can look after the child. It is only when these options have been looked and ruled out that the local authority will want the child to be placed in foster care, a residential home or ask for the child to be adopted. Even if there is a care order, therefore, parents or family members can still look after children, it just means that the local authority will still be heavily involved in the family’s life.

Contact with children in care

When there is an interim or a final care order or interim care order the local authority must ensure that parents and family have reasonable contact with the child – this is a legal obligation that the local authority cannot ignore. If the local authority wants to stop contact between you and your child for more than seven days, it needs a court order to do so. The court can make an order to authorise the local authority to refuse contact if there is evidence that no contact will improve the child’s welfare.

Any parent may also ask the Court for an order if they think the local authority is not allowing them enough contact.

How can we help you?

If you or somebody you know is going through Care order proceedings, our experienced child care solicitors are available to advise you throughout the entire process to adhere to the procedure and build a strong case for your defence. We promise to:

  • Advise you throughout the entire process
  • Treat your case in a non-judgemental, sensitive manner
  • Deal confidentially with any concerns you may have
  • Represent you in court where necessary
  • Prepare and collate any and all documentary evidence that may be required
  • Take the worry off your hands
  • Prepare an appeal if necessary

Our team are highly ranked in the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners guides. We have extensive experience in successfully defending family matters, with our acclaimed child care solicitors who are renowned for their professional approach.

Why Choose Us?

Our child care department fully understand the broad area of law that surrounds Court Order and child care cases and the complexities that can be associated with them. Our solicitors are highly qualified to take on a variety of divorce cases and are able to represent with the utmost professionalism in Court if the need arises. Additionally, if there are genuine grounds for an appeal, our solicitors will advise on what actions to take in order to build the strongest case possible.

If you feel that you have the grounds for a divorce case, please contact us as soon as possible and we will be available to guide you through the legal proceedings.

How to make contact

If you require legal advice about a care order, if you would like a no obligation, free initial telephone discussion, then please call us on 0808 168 5550. Alternatively you can email the child care team on and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Our child care solicitors can provide advice and are happy to meet at a time and location that suits you. We also have a network of offices in BirminghamBedfordBoltonDerbyLeedsLeicesterLondon TempleManchesterMiddlesbroughNorthamptonNottinghamSheffield and Worcester.

For further information please get in touch with our dedicated team.

You can always call us on 0808 168 5550 or email us on


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