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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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Section 8 Orders

Court orders made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 are generally made to resolve private law disputes. For example, a dispute between parents about where a child should live.

These are mostly cases in which children’s services are not involved. However, section 8 orders can be made in respect of children who are looked after. Children’s services can apply for some section 8 orders.

Section 8 provides for three different court orders. These are:

  • Child arrangements order. This is an order setting out who a child will live with and spend time with (i.e. have contact with). Children’s services cannot apply for a child arrangements order. However, if a family member applies for a child arrangements order in relation to a looked after child, children’s services may agree this is what is best for the child. They may support the family member to make the order. For example children’s services might pay their legal fees.
  • Prohibited steps order. This order directs the person named in the order not to carry out a specific act. For example, not to take the child out of the country without the agreement of the court. Children’s services can apply for a prohibited steps order for a child for whom they have parental responsibility. For example where they have a care order.
  • Specific issue order. This is an order that deals with a specific matter, such as what school to attend, or whether a child should receive a particular health treatment, when the people who have parental responsibility cannot agree on what should be done. Children’s services can apply for a specific issue order for a child for whom they have parental responsibility.

As with public law court orders, a court will apply the welfare principle before making a court order under section 8.

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