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How to discharge a Care Order

23 Oct 2019

What is a Care Order?

A Care Order allows the Local Authority to share the Parental Responsibility of a child with the parent(s). A Care Order lasts until a child is 18, or until it is varied or discharged. The Local Authority can exercise its Parental Responsibility over that of the parents if the welfare of the child demands it.

Who can apply for a Care Order?

Only the Local Authority or the NSPCC can apply for a Care Order.

Under what circumstances can a Care Order be made?

For a Care Order to be made, the court must be sure that the right criteria are met.  This is called the threshold.  The court must be satisfied that the child “is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm” and that the harm is attributable to the care that the parents have or would provide.  Alternatively, the Court would need to find that the child is beyond parental control.”

Implications of a Care Order

If there is a Care Order in place it means that the Local Authority can decide where a child lives, as well as making other decisions to protect their welfare.  The Local Authority has to review the arrangements regularly and part of that review process is to see if the care order is still required or whether it should be discharged.

How can a care order be discharged?

An application to discharge a Care Order can be made by the child, the parent, the Local Authority or any person with Parental Responsibility. The court will need to see a significant change in circumstances, and this will need to be supported by evidence from people working with the family.

There is no set time-frame in which the application can be made, but very few applications will succeed within the first year, and almost none in the first 6 months.  This is because it will be very difficult to show a change in circumstance within such a short time period.

The court will look at what is in the best interests of the child when deciding whether to discharge the Care Order. The child’s welfare is the most important consideration. If you are considering applying to discharge an order, we strongly advise that you seek independent legal advice. Hepburn Delaney’s specialist family law team can advise you about the prospects of success, and if appropriate can make the application to discharge a care order on your behalf, guiding you with sensitivity and expertise through your application.

Legal Aid for discharging a Care Order is not automatically available, as it is during care proceedings, but may be available in limited circumstances depending on your financial circumstances, as well as whether your application is likely to succeed. Our team can discuss your eligibility with you and help you with your application to the Legal Aid Agency, if appropriate.

If you would like any more information or advice about Care Order, how to discharge a Care Order or any other family law matter please call the specialist family team at Hepburn Delaney Solicitors today on 01442 218090 or contact us online. We are here to help.