The role of a
children’s guardian in
children’s proceedings

The role of a children’s guardian is a significant one in all public law applications in respect of children, and is one which often becomes a part of complex and particularly acrimonious private law applications.

One of the difficulties is that both the term children’s guardian and the role of the children’s guardian are not immediately understood by the parents in those proceedings. So, what is the role of the children’s guardian?

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“The court can often be faced with cases in which parents may present the court with diametrically opposed descriptions of what a child is saying they want: in such cases it can almost seem to the court like the voice of the child becomes lost.”

Paul Webb, Partner

One of the main roles of the children’s guardian is to be the voice of the child within the court proceedings and moreover an independent voice for the child. The court can often be faced with cases in which parents may present the court with diametrically opposed descriptions of what a child is saying they want: in such cases it can almost seem to the court like the voice of the child becomes lost. In such circumstances the children’s guardian can provide the court with a means of establishing – from a totally independent source – the wishes and feelings of the child.

That being said, the role of the children’s guardian is much more than just reporting the wishes and feelings of a child. It also includes examining all the available evidence, interviewing the parents and gathering information from other sources including schools and other professionals who may be involved with that child.

Ultimately, the role of the children’s guardian is to carefully analyse all the available evidence and then provide a recommendation as to what arrangements for a child, both in terms of where they live and how they spend time with their parents, siblings or extended family, best meet the needs of that particular child. Whilst a child’s wishes and feelings are an important factor for a children’s guardian to consider, they are not determinative and are one of many factors a guardian will have to carefully balance before reaching a final recommendation. There may well be occasions where a children’s guardian concludes that what a child or young person wishes to happen is not safe for them.

When a children’s guardian is appointed, whether it be public or private law proceedings, a solicitor will also be appointed on behalf of the child and the solicitor and that guardian will work on behalf of that young person. On occasion, particularly where the child is older, there are times when the guardian and the solicitor will meet the child together, so that the child can see them working as a team on their behalf. It can also help them understand the different roles of the two.

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