Information for Professionals

What is the Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency?

The Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency has been established by DHSS in accordance with Article 60(7) of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 and Guardian Ad Litem (Panels) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996. The function of the Agency is to safeguard and promote the interests of children by providing independent social work investigation and advice in specified proceedings under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 and in Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, and to provide effective representation of children's views and interests.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A Guardian Ad Litem is an independent officer of the Court who is experienced in working with children and families. The Guardian Ad Litem is employed by the Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency based at either Centre House or Spencer House.

What is the Role of the Guardian Ad Litem?

The Guardian Ad Litem is required to represent the interests of the child in Court and to report to the Court the wishes and feelings of the child regarding its circumstances and preferred outcome to the proceedings:

In Particular the Guardian is required to :

  • - thoroughly investigate the child's circumstances and provide an independent recommendation to the Court
  • - appoint a solicitor to represent the child, unless a solicitor has already been appointed
  • - instruct the solicitor, unless the child is competent to do so, or unless the child wishes to instruct the solicitor differently to the wishes of the Guardian Ad Litem, and the solicitor considers the child competent to do so
  • - understand the judicial, legal, social, political and governmental systems affecting the child
  • - achieve the best possible outcome for the child
  • - assist the court in effectively managing the timetable of the case in order to avoid delay
  • - ensure that the case is heard by the appropriate court, if necessary facilitating transfer
  • - assess the impact of the proceedings on the child and, if necessary, act promptly to protect the child from further stress or distress
  • - make a judgement, in consultation with the child's solicitor, about the amount of expert evidence that is necessary, bearing in mind the negative implications of delay
  • - evaluate the level, timing and the manner of state intervention in the life of the child
  • - provide a report to the court written in the light of all the information gathered during the investigation. The guardian ad litem's report is a confidential document and the property of the court.

               Click here for the List of current NIGALA Solicitor Panel Members 

How will the Guardian Ad Litem Investigate the Child's Circumstances?

The Guardian Ad Litem must conduct a thorough investigation into what has happened in the child's life and this may involve looking at:-

  • - the history of the case
  • - the child's health and physical growth
  • - psychological and emotional development and educational needs
  • - the parents ability and commitment to change
  • - the level of attachment between parents and child
  • - paying attention to ethnic, cultural and religious needs
  • - identifying other important people in the child's life and notifying the court
  • - reading all the statements and reports filed during the proceedings

The Guardian will discuss the situation with all relevant people. The Guardian will seek to ascertain the child's wishes and feelings regarding their future. The Guardian has right of access to Social Services records from which copies may be taken. Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 Article 61.