Getting Legal Support

If you think your child or family might need legal support, here is our advice and information about where you can get help.

Getting legal advice and support

Some life events and situations such as family breakdown, disputes about education, complaints about medical treatment, criminal matters and decision-making problems around mental capacity mean that parents and families can face legal issues.

There is a wide range of legal and family rights advisory services, but it is not always easy to know the best way to start resolving your issue. With so many websites offering information and ‘solutions’, a good place to start may be to read through Legal Choices which covers the basics. 

About advocacy

Young people who are reliant on the care system, children’s services and/or inpatient units are often unaware of their rights and do not feel equipped to access the support to which they are legally entitled. They often do not feel they have a voice. Advocacy services provide professional adults to represent them and speak on their behalf.  Advocates listen carefully to what the young person wants and needs, and together they agree decisions and actions (see links in Resources pages).   

About mediation

Mediation can help families sort out their differences and difficulties, at times when they may be unable to find a solution. Mediators don’t take sides and don’t tell one side or the other what to do; they work with both parties to reach an agreement that everyone can accept, including listening to the child’s point of view. The kinds of issues mediation can help with are:

  • Contact and resident arrangements after separation and divorce
  • Child maintenance payments
  • General finances (for example, disputes over a Will, a house, savings, pension and debts).

Mediation can be a useful and less expensive alternative to taking a matter to court. Mediation is free for people who qualify for legal aid.

Legal Aid

Legal aid can help meet the costs for legal advice and representation in a court or tribunal. These factors will be considered:

  • Whether the case is eligible for legal aid
  • How serious the problem is
  • Individual’s ability to pay for legal costs

Find out if you qualify for legal aid. 

How can I help my child?

If you're seeking legal support you probably have a lot of things going on. You might be worried about the impact it is having on your child and how to make sure they are ok. Here are some things that can really help: 

  1. Keep the needs and emotional and physical wellbeing of your child as the most important consideration in whatever situation you are dealing with.
  2. Tell them your child often as possible that you are with them every step of the way and that you are here to support them.
  3. Encourage trust and openness so they can talk to you about how they feel, how difficult situations are affecting them. It will help them to believe they don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed about their problems, and they won’t be judged negatively.
  4. Be honest about what is going on, especially if the child is witnessing anger, frustration, resentment, threats and unhappiness. Answer their questions simply, and appropriately in accordance with their age.
  5. Don’t ask the child to take sides, don’t use them as a sounding board, or leverage, and don’t make them feel responsible for the situation.
  6. Avoid making any public declarations or information-sharing on social media or even national media about legal or family arguments. This can have long-term and unintended consequences, most particularly for your child.
  7. Even when other things around feel like they are falling apart, maintaining some routine and normality will help children feel safer. The world may appear to be frightening or very different for a young person experiencing tough times.
  8. Focus on positives. Celebrate successes. Acknowledge the good things.
  9. Take care of your own health and wellbeing. Build your support network, and make sure that you do things that are for you – however small. And ask for help when you need it. 
  10. Help your child feel feel a sense of belonging. Finding an interest in something can give meaning and purpose to a young person. Find activities to do which encourage self-esteem, which your child enjoys and benefits from, which develops their skills and talents, and a sense of self-worth. Do the same for yourself.
  11. Encourage hope for the future. This will help encourage your child to understand that there is the potential for things to get better and that they can overcome obstacles.

Where can I get help?

Legal services

Child Law Advice (at Coram Children's Legal Centre)

  • Provides free legal advice and information on all aspects of English law and policy affecting children, families, carers and professionals.
  • For family or child law advice call 0300 330 5480
  • For education law advice call 0300 330 5485

Law Stuff (from Coram Children’s Legal Centre)

Legal Choices

  • Legal Choices helps you to decide whether you need legal advice, and what steps to take.

citizens advice

  • Regional-specific advice on most areas and services that affect citizens of the UK.

Community Legal Advice

  • Free and confidential legal advice in England and Wales for those eligible for legal aid:
  • Call: 0345 345 4345
  • Minicom: 0345 609 6677
  • Mon - Fri 09:00-20:00; Sat 09:00 -12:30
  • Or book a call back by texting  ‘legalaid’ and your name to 80010 (same price as a normal text)

The Scottish Child Law Centre

  • Free legal advice for children and young people, their families and carers and professionals working with them regarding child law.
  • Helplines operate Mon-Fri 09.30-16.00
  • Adult line: 0131 667 6333
  • Under 21s:(landlines) 0800 328 8970
  • (mobiles): 0300 330 1421
  • Email: [email protected]

Children’s Law Centre - (Northern Ireland)

  • Freephone advice line for children and young people: 0808 808 5678
  • Email: [email protected]

Family Rights Group

  • Advises families whose children are involved with or need children’s services because of welfare needs or concerns.
  • Freephone helpline: 0808 801 0366 (Mon- Fri 09:30-15:00)
  • Discussion boards for families and friends.

Cafcass (Children &Family Court Advisory & Support Service) 

  • Cafcass is independent of the courts and other agencies. It represents children in family court cases so that children's voices are heard and decisions made in their best interests.
  • Enquiries: 0300 456 4000 (09:00-17:00)

Legal Aid

  • Government website on legal aid

Advocacy Services 

Coram Voice

National Youth Advocacy Service

  • Offers information, advice, advocacy and legal representation to children, young people and vulnerable adults.
  • Helpline: 0808 808 1001
  • Mon- Fri 09:00-20:00, Sat 10:00- 16:00
  • Email: [email protected]

Young People in Care / Adolescent Inpatient Units

Who Cares? Trust

  • Website includes some material aimed at young people in care.
  • Phone: 020 7017 8901, Mon-Fri 10.30-15:00
  • Email: [email protected]

Special Education 

Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA)

  • Offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with all special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.
  • Advice line: 0800 018 40   
  • Tribunal line: 0845 602 9579
  • Online information form
  • For Freephone options and opening hours for phone lines click here

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