The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2019 was presented to Dáil Éireann on 8 August 2019. An initiative backed by Minister Katherine Zappone, the Bill seeks to regulate the 'ad hoc' guardian ad litem system as a means of ensuring that minors going through childcare proceedings have their voices are heard in court.
Under the current regime, guardians ad litem are appointed by the courts to defend an action on behalf of a minor or a person of unsound mind. The basis for this may be found in the Rules of the Superior Courts or s 26 of the Child Care Act 1991 in the context of care proceedings. In guardianship proceedings, the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964 applies.
The new service will be under the larger umbrella of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Section 6 of the 2019 Bill inserts a new Part VA, s 35B of which clarifies that while a guardian ad litem shall not be appointed for a child unless an order directing such appointment has been made, where the court has decided not to make such an order they must give reasons for their decision. If the court is satisfied that the child is capable of forming their own views, the court must facilitate the expression of those views.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Minister Zappone noted that:
'This Bill gives me the statutory basis to put in place a high quality, and sustainable guardian ad litem national service within my department and to ensure that all children in childcare proceedings get the opportunity to have their voices heard and due consideration is given to their best interests.
It is worth noting that s 35I provides that any costs or expenses incurred by a guardian ad litem shall be paid by the Minister. Discretion to make regulations relating to the performance of guardians ad litem has also been retained by the Minister under s 35J.
The full text of the draft Bill may be accessed here.
Note: This is intended to be a clear and accurate report of a Bill that is currently making its way through the Oireachtas. Any errors should be notified to the editor and will be dealt with accordingly.