The Child Care (Amendment) Act 2022 has now been signed into law (19 July).
The legislation will regulate and extend the guardian ad litem system to benefit children and young people in proceedings.
Guardians ad litem (GALs) enhance the decision-making capacity of the court by advising on a child’s best interests and conveying the views of the child to the court.
Roderic O’Gorman (Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth) said that the law would enable the establishment of a national standardised GAL service within an executive office of the department.
This will initially be on an interim basis, with a view to longer-term arrangements within the new specialised family-justice system.
Some of the main provisions of the act are:
- A presumption in favour of appointment of a GAL in proceedings before the District Court, and provision for mandatory appointment in special care cases before the High Court,
- Sets out the process whereby an individual GAL is assigned to a child-care case, and specifies the role and status of a GAL,
- Gives the minister the power to make regulations on the qualifications and experience required to act as a GAL,
- Provides for a transition period in the first year of operation,
- Where a child can form their own views, the court must determine how to facilitate the child in expressing those views. The court will be required to give any views that the child wishes to express due weight, having regard to the child’s age and maturity.
“The passing of this legislation is a key measure in fulfilling the Government’s commitment to reforming the existing guardian ad litem system. The act strengthens both the voice of the child in child-care proceedings and the emphasis on the child’s rights and best interests,” the minister said.