Information for Parents

What is a Guardian ad Litem?A Guardian ad Litem is an independent professional, with particular expertise in the area of child protection and working with children. The term Guardian ad Litem is a Latin legal term, which means guardian ‘for the lawsuit’. This, in essence means that the Guardian ad Litem is appointed for the duration of the ‘lawsuit’ or Court proceedings. A Guardian ad Litem is not the same as a legal guardian. It is the role of the Guardian ad Litem to advocate on behalf on the child, for the child’s interest. The Children’s Act Advisory Board has published Guidelines in respect of the qualifications, appointment and work carried out by Guardian ad Litem. These guidelines are available on www.caab.ie

Why does a child need a Guardian ad Litem?
A child needs a Guardian ad Litem in order to ensure that the child’s voice in heard in the context of Court proceedings and decisions which will impact upon the child’s life. The Guardian ad Litem will ensure that the Judge is fully appraised of the child’s wishes in order to ensure that the child’s wishes are carefully considered in the context of overall decisions about the child’s future.

How does a Guardian become involved?
Children in Care Cases: 

A Guardian ad Litem may be appointed by a Judge during child care proceedings, that is, when children are taken into care by the HSE. It is also noteworthy, that it is open to anyone in certain types of cases, to seek the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem. Your solicitor can advise you in respect of this.

Family Law:
Guardians ad Litem are also appointed to children in other circumstances such as for the purpose of assisting the Court to make decisions in relation to custody and access matters. A Guardian ad Litem is usually only appointed in circumstances where there is ongoing disagreement between parents in respect of custody and access matters. Parents are encouraged to attempt mediation before requesting the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem.

What are the duties of the Guardian ad Litem:
The Guardian ad Litem’s duties include fully reviewing all relevant files and assessments in relation to the child. The Guardian ad Litem will interview all relevant professionals and family members involved with the child. The Guardian ad Litem will interview using child-friendly interview tools in order to represent the child’s wishes to the Court. The Guardian ad Litem will also attend all relevant meetings pertaining to the child. The Guardian ad Litem will prepare a report for the Court, which will advise the Court of all relevant issues pertaining to (a) the care of the child, (b) the child’s wishes and of (c) the Guardian’s recommendations.

Does the Guardian ask the Judge to do what the child wants?
Whilst it is the role of the Guardian ad Litem to ensure that the wishes of the child are fully represented to the Court, the Guardian does not base her recommendation solely on the child’s wishes. The Guardian ad Litem makes recommendations which are in the child’s best interest.

Does the Guardian ad Litem make decisions at Court?
No, all decisions are made by the presiding Judge, who listens carefully to everyone who is involved before making a decision which will be in the child’s best interest.

How does the Guardian make decisions about her recommendations?
As the Guardian ad Litem has expertise in the area of social work and child protection, she carries out an assessment which involves interviewing the child and all relevant parties who are involved with the child. This includes parents, extended family if necessary and all relevant professionals such as teachers, psychologists, public health nurses and doctors. The Guardian ad Litem also reviews all relevant files and reports pertaining to your child. As part of the Guardian’s assessment, she reviews all areas of the child’s needs and will make recommendations in relation the child’s best interest. The Guardian’s report will provide the Court with the options which are open to the Court, accompanied by the Guardian’s assessment of the implications of each option upon the child.

How can a Guardian ad Litem be appointed to your child?
If you are involved in Court proceedings, you can request the appointment of a Guardian through your solicitor. In the event that you do not have legal representation, you can request a Guardian when the Judge is dealing with your case.

Who pays for a Guardian ad Litem?
In the case of childcare proceedings involving the HSE, the Guardian’s fees are covered by the HSE, unless otherwise directed by the Court. This may change in the future, but presently the HSE discharges these fees.In the case of private family law proceedings, the Guardian’s fees are paid by the parents.