Resolving disputes with local authority & social services

Where local authorities and social services are involved in child care matters, family emotions can run high. However, acting in the best interests of the child or children is the most important thing. If you are worried that local authorities are not doing what’s best for the child, seeking expert legal advice can help ensure the issue is swiftly resolved. 

We understand that as a parent, grandparent or guardian, you are likely to know your child the best, including understanding their needs and preferences. To speak to our team about how we can help you to best protect your child, contact us today.

What we can help you with

With years of experience in supporting families through legal issues relating to children and local authorities, our dedicated team of child care solicitors can help with: 

  • Resolving disputes over where a child/children should live
  • Deciding who a child should or should not see
  • Making important health, education and wellbeing decisions 
  • Applying for orders, including Child Residence Orders and Placement Orders 
  • Representing you in child care cases 
  • Making official complaints against a local authority’s provision for children
  • Advising on what the legal duties of the local authority are, including what will happen with the information they hold about you and your family and applying for disclosure
  • Guidance through the adoption process  

No matter the circumstances of the issue you’re facing, our team believes that when it comes to the care of children, no problem is too small. We handle every case with the same level of care and confidentiality, ensuring the child’s best interests, legal rights and future are safeguarded at all times.

Supporting the whole family

Our specialist child care solicitors work closely with our family law team, providing holistic advice for the entire family. We understand that every family is different, which is why we take the time to really get to know your individual situation as well as your desired outcomes. From this understanding, we tailor an approach for you which aims to achieve these if we believe that they are also in the best interest of the children. 

Don’t just take our word for it…

Our highly-experienced department has a tier one Legal 500 ranking and Muctar Johal, head of the department has also been recognised as a leading individual for many years running.

At Smith Partnership, Muctar Johal ‘leads his team by example’ and is a renowned figure in children law. 

Muctar Johal leads his team by example. His advocacy is exceptional. He is calm and unflappable. His ability to digest complicated medical reports is phenomenal.

The breadth of experience and knowledge within the family team make it the go to firm within the area for advice on complex legal issues.

Muctar Johal is quite simply exceptional. On the very rare occasions he does not have the answer to a complex legal issue, he will undertake thorough research and you can be sure you are getting the best advice.

The Legal 500, 2023

Why Choose Smith Partnership?

In complex and emotional situations, we know just how valuable clear and practical advice is -  which is why we pride ourselves on always being straight-talking. We ensure that any communication is easy to understand and jargon-free so that you are clear about your position and options at all times.   

Based in offices in Derby, Leicester, Burton upon Trent, Swadlincote and Stoke on Trent, our team is accessible, responsive and always willing to go above and beyond to protect your family, especially where there are children involved. Our dedication to this level of client care and expertise in this particular field is backed by our membership of the Law Society’s Children Panel.

Contact our team today

To find out how our expert team of solicitors can help you, contact us today on 0330 123 1229, send us an email via or complete our contact form.


The local authority can only remove children from the family without parents’ consent by getting a court order. Care proceedings raise two fundamental human right; those of a right to a fair trial and a right to a private family life. As a parent in care proceedings you are entitled to automatic legal aid and representation in order to protect your human rights. Furthermore, court proceedings can be very traumatic and complex and require expert assistance.

The purpose of a case conference is to consider whether a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the care provided to them. All the key agencies and professionals involved with your family meet to share information regarding your child. Once this is established, the local authority and other agencies will decide what support they can provide to the child and family to reduce and eliminate the risk and it will formulate a plan as to when and how this support will be delivered.

The local authority has a duty to promote reasonable contact between you and your children. This could be anything from weekly visits to supervised contact at a children’s centre, unless it has obtained a court order limiting or terminating your contact. You should speak to the social worker and seek legal advice in order to challenge the local authority’s decision.

A supervision order places a duty on the local authority to advise, assist and befriend a child which can take many forms, such as one to one support or frequent visits to the child’s home. It also provides the local authority with the power to give effect to the order. Crucially, it does not give the local authority parental responsibility and they cannot remove the child without the consent of the parents or a court order.

A care order places a child in the care of the local authority until he or she reaches 18 or the order is revoked. This provides the local authority with parental responsibility in respect of the child and allows it to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as with whom the child is to live and to regulate contact. The local authority must consult with the parents and involve them in the decision making. It can only be made if the local authority satisfies the court there is evidence that the child/ren are suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm attributable to the care they are receiving, and that it is proportionate and in the children(s) best interests they are made the subject of an order.

Where an application is made for a care order, the court may make a temporary order called an interim care order placing a child in the care of the local authority until it makes a final decision. The order provides the local authority with parental responsibility.

An interim care order allows the local authority to make decisions regarding your children until the final hearing, subject to certain exceptions, however, they must consult with the parents. The local authority will be able to decide with whom the child is to live.

This is an order allowing a child to be removed from their carers where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child is at immediate risk of significant harm. It is an order “requiring exceptional justification”. So long as the order lasts the local authority will share limited parental responsibility with you and others who have parental responsibility. It will enable the local authority to make significant decisions regarding where your child lives and who he/she can see and when. An Emergency Protection Order can last up to eight days but this can be extended once by a court for up to a further seven days.