Child welfare during court proceedings (NIGALA)

The Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency (NIGALA) looks after the welfare of children involved in family court proceedings. Its officers are independent, qualified in social work and experienced in working with children and families. Their roles are listed below.

Guardians Ad Litem

Guardians Ad Litem are people who look after the rights and interests of a child during cases where social services have become involved or in contested adoptions.

They can:

  • appoint a solicitor who specialises in family law for the children
  • advise the court about what needs to be done before it can make a decision
  • write a report for the court saying what they think would be best for the children - this report must tell the court about the wishes and feelings of the children
  • to do their job, Guardians Ad Litem spend time getting to know the children and members of their family


If the parents agree on adoption, then the Guardian Ad Litem makes sure parents understand what adoption means for them and for the child and then writes a short report for the court.

If a parent does not agree, or if there are special circumstances, a Guardian Ad Litem will do an in-depth investigation. They will write a report taking into account what the child wants, telling the court whether they think adoption is in the interests of the child.

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