Representing yourself in court for special Guardianship

Roisin
Posts: 29
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 7:21 pm

Representing yourself in court for special Guardianship

Postby Roisin » Sun Jun 30, 2013 12:18 pm

My daughter, S, was in a mother & baby placement for a few months with her 2 yr old child. She had a final resolution hearing in court in May.We went to court in May and at that court she agreed to give up the fight to keep her child, as my other daughter, L, was already being assessed for special guardianship of the child, G. S was in faviour of the assessments already being done with her sister, as if she couldnt keep her child she wanted her sister to care for her. Her sister was at the childs birth and has been a daily person in her life all of her life. At one time L was even asked by SW to be 24 hour supervison of G, while S stayed with her for 8 months at her house, because she was homeless. L had to take on main carer role and was not allowed to leave G with her Mum at any time. L had sole responsibility for her. This was all managed well until SW decided that S & child had to go to mother & baby placement. She was there until the resolution hearing. She gave up her child thinking she would be going to her sister, as S was weeks away from giving birth to a new baby and needed to focus on that. Discussion in court before the hearing indicated that L's assesment was positive and nearly concluded. SW were supporting the application. They even paid the upfront money for L to retain a solicitor, while waiting for legal aid to be approved. So that we could move on quickly.
Then suddenly the child's father arrived in court with a solicitor. He has never met his child, is not on birth cert & doesnt have PR. He applied for custody for him & his partner to have G. So court was stopped and rearranged for July so he could be assessed. They have already got 3 kids under 5, including one 6ms younger than G. We dont know their motives as the father already out in writing only 4 weks before that he wants nothing to do with his child.
Now SW have switched their support to the father. They have withdrawn support for the aunt. L is unable to get legal aid and so will have represent herself. She has been given some papers but there are things missing, particualrly malicious emails & threats sent to S and Social services, from the fathers partner.
Has anyone got any advice on how L should proceed and what will be expected of her in court. The fathers partner has been very threatening to S and at one time said she wanted the child dead or taken into care. She hates S, and we dont want to sound like we are just being vindictive bringing it all up,to score points, but we are really worried about the care that will be given to G by this woman.
Where do we stand? S does not want the father to have her, and wants her sister to be guardian.

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David Roth
Posts: 2022
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 10:14 am

Re: Representing yourself in court for special Guardianship

Postby David Roth » Tue Jul 02, 2013 8:50 am

Hi Roisin

The courts' preference will usually be to place a child with a parent, ahead of other options, and it is the first option that social workers are obliged to consider for looked after children. However, this has to be consistent with the child's welfare. The court will make a decision based on what is right for the child's welfare. If you have evidence that it would not be good for the child to go with her father and his partner, then you must make sure it is presented to the court, as the decision will only be based on what is actually presented as evidence to the court. You must make sure that you explain your concerns, including the possibility that the child could be cut off from her mother and the rest of the family, to whoever is doing the assessment. You do need to explain this in terms of the child's wellbeing. The family courts are used to making decisions about children where there is bad feeling between the adults, and it will be best if you can avoid making it personal between you and dad/partner, and focus on your concerns about the effect on the child.

The court might suggest mediation if the parties can't come to an agreement about what would be best for the child. I would suggest giving this serious consideration, as in the long run a negotiated settlement that both sides have agreed to can be better for the child than a dispute where feelings can run high and sometimes be quite bitter.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser


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