New Rules for Court Appointed Guardians

February 1st, 2017

In January 2017 the cabinet approved a new proposal introduced by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone on the 16th of January setting out major reform of guardianship laws which were first introduced 25 years ago.

Under the Childcare Act 1991 guardians at Litem are appointed by Judges “in the interests of children” and the role is to communicate the views of children and their best interests to the court in cases involving children.

However, the legislation does not set out any guidelines as to the circumstances in which a Guardian at Litem should be appointed and the profession is unregulated even though the two bodies, Barnardos and the Independent Guardian at Litem Agency with whom most guardians work do set standards for them.

It is now expected that a new service will be established as a result of which fees and expenses for guardians will also be standardised.

The proposed new legislation was welcomed by the State’s Child Protection Rapporteur Professor Geoffrey Shannon. He highlighted the significant geographical imbalance which , over a three year period , saw that a guardian was appointed in just over half the 1200 child protection cases but whereas in Dublin in 70% of cases guardians were appointed whereas only 17% of cases in Cork and in 13% in Galway was a guardian at Litem appointed.