Issues relating to children are decided under the Children Act 1989.  This Act covers both the private (actions between parents) and public law (actions bought by the Local Authority) relating to the care and upbringing of children and the provision of services to them and their families.

Harney & Wells have much experience in working on cases involving children and all four of our partners have been accredited members of the Law Society’s Children Panel for over 15 years.  We are able to deal with residence and contact issues, maintenance issues and social services issues.


In children matters the welfare of the child is the most important consideration and it is felt that delay in deciding any question relating to a child is not normally in the child’s best interests.  In contested cases the Courts apply what is known as a welfare checklist and consider…

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding)
  • Their physical, emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances
  • Their age, sex, background and any characteristics which the Court considers relevant
  • Any harm which they may have suffered or are at risk of suffering
  • How capable each of the parents or another person if relevant is/are in meeting these needs
  • The powers available to the Court.


How We Can Help

If you are have children matters that need to be resolved Harney & Wells can help you in a number of ways…

  • We can help you reach agreement on Residence, Contact and Maintenance matters through Mediation or Collaborative Law.
  • If you are unable to reach agreement the we can represent you in court.
  • If you have a child who is subject to care proceedings we can represent you.

Carol, Jane, Alison and Sarah are all specialists in this area of law.  All are accredited members of the Children Panel which means that they are recognised in being very experienced in this area of the law.  All four have been members of the children panel in excess of 15 years.  All four have children of their own.

Harney and Wells have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency which means that the firm can apply on your behalf for free legal aid.  Free Legal Aid still remains for people who need advice because their children are the subject of child protection procedures or children act proceedings.

Residence & Contact

When we support divorcing or separating parents we will work with them to agree which parent shall have residence of the children and what the contact arrangements shall be for the other parent (see Residence & Contact)  Where agreement cannot be reached (or there is a later dispute) this will be dealt with by the court under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 for either a residence order or a contact order.

The Courts try not to interfere and prefer parents to reach an agreement.  An appointment with a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) Officer will be offered at the first Court appearance.  You will also have the opportunity to discuss with your legal advisor whether your case is suitable to be referred to mediation.  Mediation is a voluntary process but it can reduce conflict which is considered emotionally damaging for children.


Social Services

If a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and this is due to one of…

  • The care given to the child or likely to be given to the child which is not considered to be reasonable for a parent to give
  • The child being beyond parental control

then the Local Authority/Council will apply under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989 for a Care or Supervision Order.   The Local Authority/Council will work together with the parents to try and rehabilitate the child to the parents wherever possible.

The Local Authority will seek a Care Order (on an interim basis) when it is felt that parental responsibility has to be shared between the parents and the Local Authority/Council.  A care order will last until a child is 18 years old and frequently means that a child is placed for adoption.  A supervision order places a child under the supervision of a designated Local Authority and the duty of the supervisor is…

  • To advise, assist and befriend the supervised child
  • To take such steps as are reasonably necessary to give effect to the order
  • Where appropriate to consider whether or not to apply for the discharge or variation of the order

A supervision order lasts for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years.

A parent may make an application for contact to a child in care under Section 34 of the Children Act 1989 once a care order has been made.  Before a care order is made the Local Authority/Council are under a duty to promote contact between the parents and the child.