Why pre proceedings are important in Family Law

Pre proceedings meetings are arranged when a local authority has concerns in relation to the care a child or children are receiving. These meetings are very important, as the aim it is to try to avoid court proceedings. The purpose is also to identify what support if any can be offered to the parents and the families to lessen the concerns the local authority has. If a pre proceedings meeting is arranged, a letter will be sent before hand, this letter is important and should be taken to your solicitor as soon as possible.

The letter will set out a summary of the local authority’s concerns, what support is being provided, what you and any other parent or your partner needs to do, how you will be helped to do it and in what timescale you are expected to do it in.

This is an essential part of the pre proceedings, and it is very important that you engage in this process as this is in fact the final step before the local authority issue care proceedings. It is your opportunity to work with the local authority to avoid court action and your solicitor can help you do this. It is important that you take this letter to your solicitor who will represent you at the pre proceedings meeting. If you provide your solicitor with a copy of the “Letter Before Proceedings” the advice and assistance you receive from a solicitor in relation to this matter will be free of charge as this is covered under what is known as “Legal Help”. If you have misplaced the letter, then your solicitor can request a copy from the local authority.

At the meeting the local authority will present you and your solicitor (if they have not done so in advance) with a plan on how to move forward. You will be given the opportunity in advance of that meeting to go through the plan with your solicitor and if there is anything in that plan that is incorrect, or you do not agree with or your solicitor feels is too difficult for you to comply with your solicitor will ask for this to be removed or moderated. However, the main issues of concern in relation to the children will need to be addressed, and it will be made very clear to you at the meeting what is expected. This is your opportunity to ensure that your get the right support and engage with that support to make the necessary changes. Your solicitor will ensure that the support is put in place and that you are not being asked to do things outside your capabilities. Your solicitor will provide you with advice throughout the meeting and will also keep matters under review after the meeting.

The case is kept under review by the local authority and a further meeting is arranged to take place often approximately eight weeks after the first appointment to see how things are going. Your solicitor will attend all future meetings with you. The whole process generally takes up to six months although the process can sometimes be shorter or longer than this. If things are going well the local authority will look to step the pre proceedings down. If matters do not improve or improve quickly enough then the local authority will issue an application to the court for a care order. These are very serious court proceedings and again, you will be entitled to free legal advice and representation in court from your solicitor.

Contact us, we are here to help

If you need support with pre proceedings or any other matter of Family Law, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.