What happens if your child is made a party to court proceedings (R16.4 appointments)
Making your child a party to the proceedings is a step that will only be taken when there are significant unresolved difficulties or complexities impacting your child’s welfare or when the court is concerned about their safety. The court will only do this when it has first considered appropriate alternatives.
Under R16.4,FPR 2010 your FCA is appointed by the court as your child’s guardian. The appointment of a children’s guardian in private law proceedings is intended to enable your child to be represented independently from their parents and have their own legal representative to advocate what is in their best interests. This happens in a small number of cases when the conflict between the parents threatens to compromise the interests of the child or drown out their voice or when the case is complex for other reasons.
The role of the Children’s Guardian is to appoint a solicitor to represent your child and to conduct the proceedings on behalf of the child and to ensure that their interests remain the focus of decisions, being mindful at all times of the need to avoid delay.
It is not the role of your child’s guardian to provide social work support or intervention and if necessary, a referral to the local authority should be made to access appropriate services or where the child has experienced harm or is at significant risk of harm.
Here are some of the circumstances when the court may consider appointing a Children’s Guardian under R16.4:
a) The child has a standpoint or interest which is inconsistent with or incapable of being represented by any of the adult parties.
b) The views and wishes of the child cannot be adequately met by a report to the court.
c) There are complex medical or mental health issues to be determined or there are unusually complex issues to be determined.
d) There are complex international issues aside from child abduction which may require inquiries to be undertaken abroad.
The court should consider whether the appointment of a Children’s Guardian will increase its understanding of the needs and wishes of the child, and whether the child is likely to need to make legal submissions which are distinct from each of the adult parties. If not, the court may decide that a Section 7 report may be sufficient to assist the court to make a decision that is in the best interests of the child.