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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Contested hearing

This is a court hearing that held when the people involved in a case cannot reach agreement on what should happen. It may be that the parties cannot agree on the facts or the law. The court will hear evidence from the parties. It may also hear from experts who are there to provide the court with expert opinion. The parties or their lawyers will make ‘submissions’ to the court in support of their case. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will give judgment to determine the outcome.

A contested hearing can take place during care proceedings when children’s services and parents do not agree about who should care for a child. Children’s services may consider that it is not in the child’s best interests to live with their parents. They may propose that the child live permanently with another family member or friend. They may want the child to live with foster carers, or be adopted. In this scenario, if the parents do not agree, the court will hold a contested hearing to determine where the child should live.

An example of a contested hearing in private law (when children’s services are not involved) would be where when, despite mediation, separated parents cannot agree on where a child should live. It might also relate to an application for one parent to spend time with the child, but or how much time they should spend with each parent.

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