Care orders in child abuse cases
If the local authority is concerned about child abuse, they can apply to court for a number of orders to protect the child. One of these orders is called a care order and this page gives you brief details of when care orders can be made in a child abuse case. We also give details of how an abuser can be excluded from the family home as part of a care order.
What is a care order
A care order gives the local authority parental responsibility for the child. The court may make an interim care order so that arrangements can be made to look after the child until the court makes a final decision about care.
If a care order is made, the local authority will share parental responsibility with whoever already has parental responsibility. The local authority has to involve these people when they make a decision about the child, but the local authority has the final say. The local authority will decide where your child should live. This will normally be away from home.
How a care order is made
The local authority can apply for a care order if they have concerns that a child is suffering significant harm, or is likely to suffer significant harm.
The court can only make an order if is satisfied that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, and the cause of the harm is because:
- of the care that the child is getting, or
- the child is beyond parental control.
If this is shown, the court will go on to consider whether an order should be made, and if so, whether it should be a care order or a supervision order.
You, as a parent, have the right to go to the hearing and put your views to the court. You have the right for a legal representative to speak on your behalf and you would get legal aid for this.
How long does a care order last?
A care order can last until the child is 18 unless it is ended earlier.
Can a care order exclude the abuser from the home
If the court makes an interim care order, it can include an order that an abuser is excluded from the family home if:
- there is a good reason to believe that, if the abuser is excluded from the child’s home, this would stop the child from suffering significant harm, and
- someone else living in the house (whether a parent of the child or someone else) can look after the child and agrees to the abuser being excluded from the home.
The exclusion could be applied to a lodger, tenant, or owner of the property - their legal rights to the home are ignored for this purpose.
The abuser could be ordered:
- to leave the property
- not to enter the property
- not to go to an area where the property is situated.
The court may attach a power of arrest to the order. This means that, if the person breaks the order, they can be arrested by a police office without a warrant.
If the local authority places the child away from the property for more than 24 hours, the order to exclude the abuser stops. Otherwise the exclusion lasts for as long as the interim order, which is decided by the court.
Appealing against care orders and exclusions
You or your child can appeal against a care order. The time limit to appeal is 21 days from when the order is made.
You, your child or the local authority can apply to end the order or change it to a supervision order at any time.
If you’ve been excluded from your home as part of a care order, you can apply to the court to change or stop the order.
Get legal advice about appeals from a specialist solicitor. You might get legal aid.
If you’re unhappy with the way that the local authority has applied for a care order, you may be able to complain. For example, you could complain if you feel that the local authority did not take certain evidence into account in their investigations or if they have acted in a discriminatory way. Get specialist advice about making a complaint.