Complicated family law issues can often arise within families, causing real distress and sorrow for those affected. From the breakdown of a marriage to child custody disagreements, family issues can be emotionally charged and knowing what the best course of action can be very difficult. Whilst many of us seek to resolve family matters within the home, sometimes the best option all round is to seek outside legal assistance from an impartial source.
How can we help?
Hunts Solicitors’ are family law experts and can help guide you sensitively through the legal process from beginning to end. Our aim is to always ensure you have a clear understanding of the options available to you at all times and the implications that various decisions may have on you and your family.
Una Conway heads up the Family Law team and is an accredited member of the Children’s Order Panel. She has also been appointed to sit on the Guardian Ad Litem Panel to represent the interests of children during Care Order proceedings.
Owing to the obvious property issues that can occur during separation or divorce negotiations, Una works closely with the firm’s Conveyancing Department. This brings many advantages for our clients and provides a clear insight into the implications which various decisions may have on your property and finances. If assets need to be divided, including pensions, insurances, endowment policies and associated transfers of equity, careful planning from our property lawyers can ensure our clients get the best possible advice at all times.
Hunt Solicitors is experienced in all aspects of Family Law, including Divorce, Children’s Order matters and Domestic Violence.
Divorce or relationship breakdown can be a very emotional and stressful time for everyone concerned. Big decisions need to be taken which can have a lasting effect on your future, your children, your finances and even your business. You should, therefore, seek legal advice as early as possible to ensure you can make informed decisions from the beginning.
- Pre Marital Agreements (including Pre & Post Nuptial Agreements)
- Financial Settlement
- Ancillary Relief Proceedings
- Partition Proceedings
- Spousal Maintenance
- Child Maintenance
The protection and safe-guarding of children should be a top priority for all guardians but we understand that matters under “The Children (NI) Order 1995” are sensitive and often complex. At Hunt Solicitors we take a sensitive but pragmatic approach to important matters relating to the welfare of children and always work to get a resolution which is in the child’s very best interest.
Children Order Proceedings including:
- Residence Order and Contact Order applications
- Care Orders and Freeing for Adoption applications
- Adoption and Guardian matters
- Child Protection Issues
Guardian Ad Litem
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
The Guardian ad Litem is an independent officer of the court. They represent the child in care order proceedings. Their role is to speak to the child and advise the court of the wishes and feelings of the child. The Guardian represents and safeguard a child’s interests. The Guardian will thoroughly investigate the child’s circumstances of the child and provide a recommendation to the court.
When does a Guardian become involved?
They are involved in Care Order Cases. This is when Social Services are involved in a case and want to share responsibility for a child with their parents. A child may have been removed from their family and placed in foster care. If this happens Social Services must have a plan about what happens next, they then need to attend court and ask the court to approve their plan. It is usually the case that the parents and the child will disagree with this plan. In order to assist the court in its decision, the court appoints a Guardian and a solicitor to represent the child only.
What is the solicitor’s role?
A solicitor is appointed to work with the Guardian Ad Litem. They work in partnership with the Guardian to promote the interests of the child and advise the court on the child’s wishes and feelings. They must try and achieve the best possible outcome for the child. This can sometimes be difficult as the job of the solicitor is to balance the child’s rights and wishes with their responsibility to keep the child from harm.
How do the Guardian and Solicitor work for a child?
The Guardian and solicitor meet with the child during the court proceedings. It is their role to ascertain the following.
- The child’s wishes and feelings and views regarding background events
- The child’s perception of the reasons leading up to the taking of the proceedings
- The child’s perception of his stay in care
- The child’s view of the most appropriate order the court should make; if any
- The child’s views as to the future.
The solicitor will have to balance those things which the child is able to explain against those which he or she is not. Obviously this cannot be done in one meeting because the solicitor and Guardian will not want to rush the child. They will need to proceed at the pace of the child.
What happens after the Guardian and Solicitor have met with the child?
The solicitor will inform the court of the child’s wishes and feelings. Along with the Guardian they will make a recommendation to the court about what should happen. Throughout the proceedings they work to safeguard the child’s interests. The Guardian provides a report to the court, written in light of all the information gathered in the investigation.
The principles of the Children’s Order (NI) Order 1995 are that the needs and voice of the child must be heard. The legislation also states that the child’s welfare is paramount.
If a child is able to understand the implications of a decision then, save in exceptional circumstances, the child’s instructions should prevail over those of someone acting for them.
It is not easy to come forward as a sufferer of domestic violence, but you can be assured that should you require our services in this area we will approach your case sensitively and with the upmost confidentiality.
- Protection Under Domestic Violence Legislation
- Non-Molestation Order & Occupation Order Applications
To speak with a member of our Family Law team, to discuss your circumstances, or to arrange a free initial consultation, please fill in this short form to make an enquiry.
Alternatively you can contact us with the following details.
77 High Street
7 Donegall Square West