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The Children’s Court may appoint a legal representative to act for a child or young person in care and protection matters. If a child or young person is old enough (usually 12 or over) or capable of giving instructions, the legal representative will act as a direct legal representative. If a child or young person is not able to give instructions the legal representative will act as an independent legal representative.

If a guardian ad litem has been appointed (see below) the independent legal representative will act on the instructions of the guardian ad litem.

A direct legal representative should ensure that:

  • the Children’s Court hears the views of the child or young person
  • all relevant evidence is available to the Children’s Court
  • they act on the instructions given by the child or young person.

The independent legal representative should also ensure that the child or young persons’ views are heard by the court and that all relevant evidence is available to the court. The independent legal representative does not have to take instructions from the child or young person and must act in the child or young persons best interests, even where this is different from what the child or young person might want.

Guardian ad litem

Sometimes the court will also appoint a person other than a solicitor to look out for the best interests of the child or young person during proceedings. This person is known as a guardian ad litem, meaning a guardian for the lawsuit.

A guardian ad litem is usually appointed in special circumstances where age, disability or illness is a factor and their role is to instruct the solicitor (acting for the child or young person) in accordance with the child or young person’s best interests.

In some matters a guardian ad litem is appointed to safeguard the interests of the parents and to instruct the parents solicitor.

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