How to contact us for advice

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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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Who makes decisions in the Family Court?


Some cases are dealt with by magistrates. Magistrates are volunteers who court cases in their community. Some magistrates deal with cases in the criminal courts. And some with cases in the Family Court, including care proceedings.

Each case is usually heard by three magistrates. One magistrate is trained to at as Chair. The magistrates are supported by a legal adviser. The adviser is a qualified lawyer. They give the magistrates advice on the law. They help make sure magistrates follow the rights process. Magistrates will usually deal with less complex cases. And cases where a final hearing will not last for more than three days.

There is more information about magistrates here.


Some care proceedings are heard by a judge. There are different levels of judge. These are: District Judges, Circuit Judges and High Court Judges.

Cases where there is lots of medical information, or where experts hold different views and opinions are more likely to be heard by a Circuit Judge.  Some of the more complex cases will go to the High Court of the Family Division to be heard by a family judge there. This involves a case moving from the Family Court to that High Court. This is known as transferring the case.

Sometimes care proceedings can only be dealt with by a High Court judge. Examples include cases where a child may be adopted to someone overseas. Or where there is especially complex information about immigration or asylum issues.

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