Big rise in legal fees for child court guardians

Head of service at Barnardos describes system as ‘chaotic’ and calls for regulation

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan:   said  new figures show guardians ad litem legal fees total €3.14 million for the year to date.     Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan: said new figures show guardians ad litem legal fees total €3.14 million for the year to date. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 01:01

The rate of legal fees paid by the State to lawyers acting for children’s guardians ad litem (GAL) in the courts has rocketed this year. New figures from Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan show guardians ad litem legal fees total €3.14 million for the year to date.

Guardians ad litem provide an independent voice for children in family law proceedings, and the €3.14 million to their lawyers compares to a total of €4.85 million in such fees for 2013. The figures show that legal fees top the amounts being paid out to guardians ad litem themselves in 2014.

In a written Dáil reply to Tommy Broughan TD, Mr Flanagan said €2.47 million has been paid in direct payments to them in 2014 – €3.14 million was paid in legal fees.

Barnardos is the largest single provider of guardian ad litem services, and last year it received €3.58 million for providing this service.

The head of the service at Barnardos, Freda McKittrick, yesterday described the GAL system as “chaotic” and urged Government to regulate it. She admitted to being puzzled by the figures. “They are surprising as I know the Child & Family Agency has stated its intention to reduce the use of lawyers where guardian ad litems are concerned and we have been actively reducing lawyers.”