The Child Care (Amendment) Act 2022, which provides for reform of the guardian ad litem (GAL) system, was signed into law by the President in July 2022. A Guardian ad Litem is appointed to inform the Judge of a child’s wishes and feelings and to give advice on what he/she thinks is best for the child.
The passing of this legislation enables the Minister to establish a new national GAL service within an Executive Office of the department on an interim basis with a view to longer-term arrangements for the Office being made within the new specialised family justice system. The principal aim of the Office will be to offer a national GAL service that will provide a high quality, standardised service to all children and young people who are the subject of child care proceedings.
The 2022 act amends legislation concerning child-care proceedings (under the Child Care Act 1991), special-care proceedings (under the Child Care (Amendment) Act 2011), and the detention of children in an approved centre (under the Mental Health Act 2001).
The minister is empowered to develop a regulatory framework that will hold GALs to high professional standards. These standards will relate to the functions of GALs under the act, which are outlined as follows:
- Ascertain the views of the child,
- Consider the views of the child,
- Make recommendations to the court as to the best interests of the child,
- Furnish the court with a report of the views of the child,
- Explain the reasons for their recommendations,
- Inform the child of the recommendations made in an age-appropriate way,
- Inform the child of the outcome of the proceedings in an age-appropriate way, and
- Inform the court of other matters when required by the court to do so.
This amendment was intended to reflect the intent of article 42A of the Constitution, which was inserted by the Children’s Referendum in 2012.
Secondly, section 5 inserts a new provision to the 1991 act that provides that the court must have due regard to the views of the child in proceedings relating to child care or special care. The court must give due weight to these views according to the child’s age and maturity.
Speaking on the new law Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, said, “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.”
This newly enacted legislation further copper fastens the voice and rights of children as enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website www.nfg.ie, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.