Ed Bidder from our family law team explains Rule 16.4 of the Family Procedure rules and what a guardian’s role is. This can come into force when a child arrangements case is complicated.

Following on from our articles on CAFCASS covering the first hearings of Private Law court proceedings, we now focus on what can happen afterwards particularly in situations where the issues are complicated and additional direction is needed for the court

A difficult case might include:

  • allegations of harm suffered by the children,
  • involvement of agencies such as the Local Authority and police information,
  • safeguarding concerns or
  •  perhaps experts are involved for psychological opinions.

Mostly, in our experience, the parents try to act in the best interests of the children. Sadly however there can be times when it’s just not possible for parties to come to an agreement about what should happen, if and how children should spend time with their non-resident parent. Disputes can be prolonged and the competing positions of parties can sometimes become very difficult to resolve.

Who are guardians under 16.4 of the Family Procedure Rules

When cases become this complex, the judge can often make a direction under Rule 16.4 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010, to make the children party to the proceedings. When this happens, a Guardian is appointed for the children to give the court an independent view of what has been happening. Guardians are professionally qualified social workers with considerable experience of working with children and families. They do not work for the local authority which is involved in your case.
The Guardian will also instruct a solicitor to represent the children. The solicitor is responsible for presenting the child’s case in court, including calling witnesses for the child. The Guardian is responsible for telling the solicitor what the Guardian thinks should happen with the child and what information should be put before the court.

What does a guardian do?

The Guardian and solicitor will then usually meet with the people involved, study the case files and write a report with their views and recommendations. This may include a section from the children themselves if that is appropriate. This is to help inform the court what further steps may need to be taken to move the case forward and liaise with the parents or their representatives.

Funding children representation

Legal aid would be granted to children in these types of case in almost all circumstances, and this would fund the children’s representation.

Ed is part of a team of specialists in dealing with cases concerning children, involving CAFCASS. Not only do we have vast experience of acting for parents, but we also regularly represent children on instructions from CAFCASS where a Guardian may be appointed. If you believe that we may be able to help, please do get in touch with us.