About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cafcass: Why? The value of Children's Guardians

The leader of Surrey Council recommends scrapping Cafcass according to this article in Community Care -he suggests the responsibilities are transferred to the local authorities. Back to square one then with LAs funding GAL's Panels - I remember one GAL telling me in the olden days that she had to be careful what she said in evidence because if she was too often critical of the LA she would be dropped from receiving work.

I have been thinking more about the cases involving GALs and why their role is so essential. A colleague spoke a heresy out loud which has been knocking around my meagre brain for a while. Why is there so much emphasis on cases involving babies? It seems to us that from a forensic viewpoint these are the cases with arguably the least active role for the GAL and the least demanding since wishes and feelings cannot be ascertained. That said I can think of one recent case where a GAL's stance in relation to a very young child was pivotal because she went and observed the contact - more than once - and was so impressed with the father's handling of the child and his relationship that she argued very hard that he should not be ruled out. And he wasn't and the child is now placed with him. We could probably have got there without that since there were glowing contact notes but it would have been very much more difficult and the GAL's direct observations could become part of the evidence in a way that submissions from the solicitor could not have matched. Generally speaking, however, I wonder whether the baby cases should really get the priority they do.

I am happy to report that in my long running saga without a GAL since November that a GAL has been appointed. Immediately on holiday and unable to come to court till February but at least a step in the right direction.

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