Can your child be separately represented in family proceedings?
The short answer is “yes” but only in exceptional circumstances and when the family court considers it’s in the best interests of your child. The court would then appoint a guardian to represent your child.
The court can make this type of order of its own initiative, on the application of a party to the proceedings i.e. parent or on the application of a person who wishes to be appointed as the child’s guardian.
When would a court do this?
It is unusual in private law proceedings and the court will look at each individual case on its facts. Below are a few examples of when the court may order that your child is separately represented:
1 Where the child has a standpoint which is inconsistent with or incapable of being represented by both parents;
2 Where the views and wishes of the child cannot be adequately met by a Cafcass report to the court;
3 Where an older child is opposing a proposed course of action;
4 Where there are serious allegations of physical, sexual or other abuse in relation to the child; or
5 Where the proceedings concern more than one child and the welfare of the children is in conflict.
In the majority of cases, the court can establish a child’s wishes and feelings by directing for Cafcass to complete a section 7 welfare report. Therefore the issue of separate representation is the exception rather than the rule.