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Bill extends and regulates ad hoc system of guardians ad litem
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13 Aug 2019 / courts Print

Bill extends and regulates  guardians ad litem system

The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2019 has been published and will address significant inadequacies in existing guardian ad litem (GAL) provisions under section 26 of the Child Care Act 1991.

Its objective is to regulate and extend the existing ad hoc system of guardian ad litem appointments.

Guardians ad litem are appointed by judges in child care proceedings. Their role is to independently establish the wishes, feelings and interests of the child and present them to the court with recommendations.   

The bill will:

  • Provide for a presumption in favour of a GAL being appointed for all children in child care proceedings,
  • Require the court, if it declines to appoint a GAL, to state its reasons for not appointing one and say how it intends to hear the views of the child,
  • Specify the role and status of a GAL and allow the minister to make regulations on the qualifications and experience required to act as a GAL,
  • Provide for a new national and transparent process for the appointment and assignment of GALs to child care cases,
  • Provide for the mandatory appointment of a GAL in all proceedings under section 25 of the Mental Health Act 2001, which provides for the involuntary admission of a child who has a mental disorder to an approved centre,
  • Provide the statutory basis for the establishment of a national GAL service within an executive office within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

It is intended that GALs will enhance the decision-making capacity of the court in child care proceedings.

Professional opinion

The role and core functions of the GAL will be to inform the court of any views that the child wishes to express, and to advise the court about what, in his or her professional opinion, is in the child’s best interests. 

The role of the GAL is to independently establish the wishes, feelings and interests of the child, and present them to the court with recommendations.  

The GAL gathers information about the child’s situation and gives the child information about the court process. They consult social workers, parents, carers and others regarding the child. They attend welfare conferences and reviews, meetings in court and case conferences, and promote the child’s wishes, interests and rights within the court arena. 

There are currently in the region of 75 guardians ad litem operating across Ireland. 

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