This is, in STOPPA’s estimation, a waste of time and money in PA cases. Whilst it may be useful in ‘normal’ cases, PA cases are simply not susceptible to ‘kitchen table’ methods of resolution. The AP simply does not engage with the process.
It is, however, a hoop you will have to jump through in most cases. If, however, our triage model were to be adopted, PA cases would be identified from the outset, and mediation (with its inherent costs) would be avoided. If you are ordered to do this, ask the judge to order that each side pay half of the cost. Do not be gallant and agree to pay in the short-term on the basis that the judge will assess all the costs at the end…Costs are normally dealt with on the basis that each side pay their own, and mediation costs have a habit of being forgotten.
Guardians Ad Litem
Guardians can be appointed by the Court, to represent the interests of your child – on the face of it…
As with all professions and trades, there is good and bad. Mrs Justice Parker was plainly not impressed with the Guardian employed in re H:
“The Children’s Guardian also urged me to do nothing and not to intervene because of what the boys say they are not willing to see their father. She has done remarkably little as a Guardian. She has not read most of the papers, she hardly knows the boys. When it was put to her that if this was a case of parental manipulation and recruitment, then this could be or would be emotionally abusive to the boys, she took that on board seemingly, or at least superficially, but then said, “But the boys say they don’t want to go.” She was reminded that they were fine when they went on contact. “Oh,” she said, “but the boys don’t want to go.”
Guardians tend to be CAFCASS officers, or ex-CAFCASS. The problem with that is exactly as highlighted by Mrs Justice Parker – many of them just do not ‘get’ PA, having received little or no training and a skewed world view. This is a problem as the Guardian effectively ‘becomes’ your child for these purposes, and if they simply repeat what your child says (who of course is repeating what the AP says), that is not helpful, to say the least. Obviously if the Guardian behaves like this (like the Guardian in re H, above), she/he is not representing the best interests of your child, but merely spouting, parrot-fashion, the words of AP though the medium of your child.
If, on the other hand, you get a good Guardian, they can be invaluable.
They can, for example, apply for Legal Aid on your child’s behalf and this could be used to fund an expert’s report – again, really useful especially where CAFCASS have failed, as they often (invariably?) do to identify PA. Or this might not be necessary if the Guardian is ‘tuned-in’ to PA and is able to ask questions a bit more perceptive than ‘Ok Jonny what do you want’.
On balance, STOPPA is ambivalent about Guardians. ‘Take care’ is the best advice.