Role and Functions of the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)
GALs will be appointed by the Courts in specified family proceedings and adoption proceedings. Their role is to represent the child before the Court on what is his or her best interests and to ensure that the child’s wishes and feelings are made clear to the Court. The paramountcy of the welfare of the child and the requirement that the voice of the child should be heard when decisions are being made about his or her future, are central principles of the Children Order. The GAL, therefore, has a crucial role to play in helping to ensure that, in the Courts, the Order works as Parliament intended and that the principles of the Order are reflected in practice.
The GALs are qualified Social Workers with considerable experience of child care matters and a sound understanding of family law. Their task is prescribed in Rules of Court but will, inevitably, demand that they possess a considerable analytical capability and well-developed inter-personal skills. The situations in which they will be involved will often be fraught with difficulty. GALs are called upon to make careful assessment of complex family relationships and, based upon these, to determine what is likely to be the best future option for a child. There will frequently be considerable conflict and immense stress within the family with whom the GAL is working. There may also be substantial differences in perception between the GAL and the various professionals responsible for the welfare of the child, as to where the best long term interests of the child lie.