Acting for parents
The Official Solicitor may act for parents who lack mental capacity (within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005) to instruct their own solicitor (or are under 18) and who have become involved in court proceedings concerning their children (with the exception of criminal proceedings) including in:
- care proceedings
- placement proceedings
- adoption proceedings
- residence or contact disputes
The Official Solicitor generally requires the following criteria to be satisfied before he will become involved in such proceedings:
- Evidence as to lack of capacity (in the form of completion of his certificate);
- Confirmation that no-one else is able and willing to act for the client (the Official Solicitor’s expectation is that he will be asked to act as a last resort);
- Court order inviting the Official Solicitor to act;
- Confirmation that there is funding for the costs of legal representation (public funding or otherwise).
In May 2010 the Public Law Committee of the Family Justice Council published good practice guidance – ‘Parents who lack capacity to conduct public law proceedings’ This annexes draft letters of instruction and the Official Solicitor’s capacity certificate.
The Practice Note entitled Official Solicitor: Appointment in Family Proceedings (2 April 2001) is the current practice note detailing the Official Solicitor’s role in family proceedings.
Downloadable versions of the Official Solicitor’s Standard Instructions to Solicitors can be found below to be used in each type of the following proceedings
An 'easy read' explanation of the Official Solicitor’s role as litigation friend can be found in the following leaflet:
Useful links and publications:
The website of the Family Justice Council contains news and information about family proceedings.
The Family Justice Council has also published "easy read" leaflets to assist parents involved in either private law or public law proceedings. These are available in a number of languages on their website.
The Department of Health has published Good practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability.
In the early stages of local authority involvement with children, please refer to the 'Preparing for Care and Supervision Proceedings' - Best Practice Guide.
The Norah Fry Research Centre provides research and resources for parents with learning disabilities