The Justice Committee has recently heard evidence from various professionals involved in care cases about the Government’s plan to impose a 26 week time limit for courts to conclude care cases. Most professionals agreed that care cases are complex, dealing with vulnerable children and parents which often lead to expert assessments being carried out before a decision can be made. Cases will rarely be resolved in under 26 weeks and there is concern that if a 26 week time limit were imposed, whilst it may be an ideal to strive for, it could act as a strait jacket and the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount could be undermined and further delay could ensue.
In private law children proceedings, where parents may make an application to the court to seek Contact, Residence, Parental Responsibility or other orders affecting children, there is no current time limit in place. The principle that delay in deciding such cases is to be avoided, is enshrined in the Children Act 1989 and the parties, their Lawyers and the Judge are mindful of that. Delays happen in private law children proceedings just as much as they happen in public law care cases. Sometimes this cannot be avoided. Often the court will appoint a CAFCASS Officer to prepare a report about the children’s circumstances which may contain a recommendation as to how the case could be resolved, which greatly assists the Judge. Due to the number of children cases before the court, a CAFCASS report can often take 3 months or more to be produced. Whilst this delay is not ideal in progressing a case which involves children, sometimes it cannot be avoided and it is often in the children’s best interests that a welfare opinion is sought.
If you are the parent, grandparent or otherwise involved in the up bringing of a child and issues have arisen that cannot be resolved by agreement, you are invited to make an appointment for an initial free consultation with one of our Family Law Team, who will be in a position to advise you on the best way forward for you and your family.
Please telephone 01245 228126 to request an appointment.