We are a ‘Voice’ for children who are subjects of public law and adoption proceedings before the courts in Northern Ireland.
The guardian ad litem is an independent officer of the Court who is experienced in working with children and families. Under the Children (NI) Order 1995, a guardian ad litem is appointed to safeguard the interests of children who are the subject of Court proceedings. This may be either adoption or care proceedings.
Article 60 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 provides that, in any case involving specified proceedings [specified proceedings are defined in Article 60(6) of the Order], the Court shall appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for the child concerned unless satisfied that it is not necessary to do so in order to safeguard his or her interest. The Guardian Ad Litem shall be appointed in accordance with rules of Court and shall be under a duty to safeguard the interests of the child in the manner prescribed by such rules. Similar provisions in relation to adoption cases are contained in Article 66 of the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987.
In Northern Ireland, the appointment of Guardians Ad Litem (GALs) in specified proceedings is an entirely new feature of our children’s legislation. Although the appointment of a GAL in adoption proceedings has been a feature of the Adoption Order for some years, such appointments were formerly made by means of special arrangements between the Northern Ireland Court Service and Health and Social Services Boards. No independent GAL Service, as is now required by the provisions of the Children Order and the Adoption Order (as amended by the Children Order), has hitherto existed.