Guardian ad litem reform to go ahead with new bill being drafted

Guardian ad litem reform to go ahead with new bill being drafted

Long-awaited reforms to the guardian ad litem (GAL) system will go ahead after ministers agreed to draft new legislation.

The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2021 will establish a new national guardian ad litem service within an executive office of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) on an interim basis.

The principal aim of the office, which will eventually be located within the new specialised family justice system, will be to make guardian ad litems available to all children and young people who are the subject of child care proceedings.

It will effectively supersede section 26 of the Child Care Act 1991, which currently provides for the appointment of a guardian ad litem in child care proceedings where a child is not a party to those proceedings and where the court is satisfied that it is necessary in the best interests of the child and in the interests of justice.

Similar reforms were proposed in the Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2019, which fell at committee stage upon the dissolution of the Dáil in February 2020, but the Department said “some changes [have been made] to the 2019 bill in line with stakeholder concerns”.

These changes include the introduction of a “clearer presumption in favour of appointment” in response to stakeholder concerns regarding wording in the 2019 bill.

The heads of the bill will be published on the Department’s website by the end of the week.

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