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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). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. 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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What does the Family Court have to look at when making decisions about a child?

When the Family Court makes any decision relating to a child, the child’s welfare must always be the court’s ‘paramount consideration’. This is known as the welfare principle. Or the paramountcy principle.  It means the court needs to think what is in the child’s best interests when it makes decisions (see section 1 (1) of the Children Act 1989.

To help work out what is in a child’s best interests, the court must use the welfare checklist. This is set out at section 1 (3) of the Children Act 1989.

The checklist says that the Family Court must take into account:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings (bearing in mind the child’s age and understanding)
  • The child’s needs (physical, emotional and educational)
  • The likely effect on the child of any changes in their circumstances
  • The child’s age, sex and background (and any other relevant characteristics)
  • Any harm the child has suffered (or any risk of harm)
  • The parents’ ability to meet the child’s needs
  • All the powers the Family Court has.

To understand the child’s wishes and feelings the court should draw on information from:

  • The child’s social worker
  • The children’s guardian
  • Family members
  • And the child more directly (depending on their age).

When the Family Court is asked to make any kind of order about a child’s life under the Children Act 1989, it must ask whether an order is needed. Or whether the plans the court has decided, or agreed, are right for the child can still be put in place without an order being made.

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