The Law and Childcare

We work closely with children and families where the fundamental question of who they live or spend time with is in discussion.

Covering the South of England including Hampshire, West Sussex, Dorset, and the Isle of Wight, our small, understanding team knows how hard it can be to navigate this emotionally fraught process.

We’re here to provide our legal support and guide you through this complex area.

As a team that includes solicitors that are members of the Law Society’s Children’s Panel, we:

  • Know how families are affected by care proceedings and child arrangements disputes
  • Understand the law including local authority investigations, final hearings, and the appeals process
  • Are available and responsive, making the advice you need available at short notice

Together, our experience and understanding allows us to help you obtain the appropriate support from local agencies and local authorities and resolve residency issues effectively.

We can help with Care Proceedings

When children are subject to child in need or child protection planning, or subject to the public law outline, we give parents and other family members specialist advice.

We also have particular expertise in Private Law

When the Court is asked to make decisions about where a child should live or who they should spend time with, we can represent parents and children directly or via a guardian.

We understand the often sensitive dealing with the most vulnerable clients with mental health issues, learning difficulties, or physical disability.

Cases may include:

  • Care Proceedings
  • Emergency Protection Orders
  • An application for a special guardianship order
  • The Public Law Outline and Children’s Services involvement
  • Prospective adoptions
  • Opposing an adoption order
  • Child Arrangements Orders (Residence and Contact Disputes)
  • Step-parent adoptions

How it works

We have a Legal Aid Contract with the Legal Aid Agency. As a result, we can undertake work pursuant to the Legal Aid Scheme.

This is available to parents and other parties with parental responsibility who are the subject of proceedings by the Local Authority.

All parents / people with parental responsibility involved in care proceedings are entitled to free legal advice.

Private Law

Legal Aid is generally unavailable, but may be available in exceptional circumstances. We’re happy to discuss this with you – don’t hesitate to get in touch.

If funding is not available, we’ll provide detailed estimates of our costs and help you assess your ability to pay privately.

Let us support you in finding an effective resolution.

Call us on 01329823322 or click here to get in touch.

If you have any questions regarding the law in childcare, or to book an initial consultation, please contact one of our specialists below.

  • Sarah Palmer
    Sarah PalmerEmail Direct

    Since training with Blake Lapthorn (now Blake Morgan) and qualifying as a solicitor in 1990, Sarah became a Member of the Law Society’s Children’s Panel (1993) and dealt with a range of family law cases.

    She founded The Children’s Legal Practice in 2004 to provide specialist advice on children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and care proceedings. Today, she helps the families of children with significant disabilities secure specialist educational provision and assists those involved in the care system.

    Outside work, she enjoys spending time with her family, walking her dog, and football.

  • Kirti Patel
    Kirti PatelEmail Direct

    Kirti qualified as a solicitor in 1993 and has been a Member of the Law Society Children’s Panel since 2000. Since then, she specialised in Family and Children’s Law until setting up The Children’s Legal Practice in 2004.

    Her diverse expertise covers representing children directly or via a guardian, and working with parents and other family members. She also has extensive experience on complex cases involving serious allegations of abuse.

    Beyond work, she enjoys theatre, travel, and spending time with her family.

  • Kieran Baker
    Kieran BakerEmail Direct

    Kieran joined The Children’s Legal Practice in 2010 as a legal assistant. While this role was initially administrative, he has grown to become an integral part of the team and the first point of contact for many of our clients.

    He has worked on a number of complex care cases supervised by Sarah and Kirti and, more recently, has started working towards a Chartered Legal Executive qualification through the Cilex Law School.

    Outside of work, Kieran’s interests include the latest technology, football, ice hockey and boxing.

As to solicitors: Sarah Palmer, the Children’s Legal Practice, Fareham. I had four separate recommendations from individual members of Chambers for this lady. One says: “a true expert of many years standing”, another says “Sarah Palmer would be perfect”.

I realise that Fareham is a bit of a slog and I still have a couple of people making inquiries as to solicitors closer to Cheltenham – but the strength of recommendation for Sarah Palmer is impressive. Barristers don’t tend to dish out that kind of praise lightly.


“If you require expert advice from a professional firm in relation to your child’s educational needs, I would have no hesitation in recommending the Children’s Legal Practice.

Our son is now flourishing at his new school which is a direct result of the advice and help we received from Sarah Palmer at the firm.

As a family, we are all so much happier, as our son is finally getting the kind of education he so greatly needed”

“I cannot begin to express how much we appreciate your dedicated and thorough approach to our case. Your kindness and patience when listening to my exhausted ramblings/worries and hopes for A really helped me to get through the whole process! You (and your team of experts and brilliant office staff) managed to look at A as a real individual and translate the mountains of information about my child into a real life solution that I have no doubt will benefit all of us for many years to come………….. The provision that you and the barrister secured for us is unbelievable. Thank you so much”

“We instructed Sarah Palmer of CLP on our education matter, due to her expertise in negotiating, and professional relationship, with the LEA. We were close to the SEND Tribunal final hearing date, and needed help at all the final stages to secure the named school and provisions in the EHCP. Sarah spent time discussing the key facts and issues with us, and quickly assessed the strength and merits of our case. We were amazed at the speed with which Sarah progressed the discussions with the LEA, and managed to conclude a settlement resulting in our son being placed at his named specialist non mainstream school without the need for the hearing. We are eternally grateful for all the hard work of the CLP”



CLP pulled together a highly experienced and effective tribunal team consisting of a barrister, educational psychologist and four therapists. The team’s combined expertise and co-ordinated approach brought about a successful placement for our son with complex special needs.

“Sarah Palmer and CLP first supported us in 2008/9, guiding us through the statementing and SENDIST process that culminated in a successful appeal to Tribunal. Their expertise was such that six years on we had no hesitation re-engaging them to guide us through the EHCP process and to conclude a successful negotiation with our LA over sixth form placement without the need to go to Tribunal. We thoroughly recommend them.”


“I instructed Sarah Palmer on the recommendation of a friend during an appeal against refusal to assess my child for a statement of SENs in 2014. My initial contact was via email, Sarah telephoned me for a quick discussion and got straight to the heart of the matter. We moved smoothly from being in an extremely difficult position to the case being conceded pre-tribunal. A further appeal was lodged against the content of the statement. Again there were complicating factors but Sarah steered us expertly through a very stressful process and once again our case was conceded pre-tribunal. The final outcome was a well written statement with a placement at a specialist school which, a year later, has proved to be an amazing step forward for my child. I am therefore very happy to recommend Sarah and the CLP team for their work in this field.”


“Be careful who you listen to….
We were told by teachers that it was highly unlikely that our son (ADHD / Dyslexia) would qualify for a SEN statement (now EHCP) that would have any specific support provision. Frankly we didn’t know what to do until we were recommended Sarah Palmer by a friend. It wasn’t an easy process, but our son is now attending a specialist school with appropriate class sizes and on-site OT and SALT professionals.”


“Sarah Palmer at the Children’s Legal Practice helped us with both the primary and secondary school transition process for our daughter who has a severe speech & language disorder. On both occasions Sarah provided straightforward, helpful and relevant advice. Her vast experience in this area resulted in successful school placements without tribunals. Due to Sarah’s services our daughter is now in a school where she is happy and thrives in.”


“Have already used CLP again in another case and have recommended to individual Guardians particularly in relation to children with additional needs. Sarah Palmer’s expertise and interest in children with additional needs is excellent and a useful resource when representing children. Will be making this point to the team generally at our next team meeting.”

Children's Guardian - JS

“CLP provided straightforward, helpful, and relevant advice. Due to CLP, our daughter is now in a school where she is happy and thrives.”


“CLP were very friendly every time I rang for help. I couldn’t ask for a better solicitor in a very hard situation.”