The Family Proceedings Advisory Service was formerly known as the Safeguarder Service.
The Family Proceedings Advisory Service was set up under the Children (Guernsey and Alderney) Law (2008) as amended, bringing together the services previously provided by the Court Welfare and Guardian ad Litem services. A Family Court Adviser is appointed by the Family Courts (Magistrate's and Royal), the Juvenile Court (public law) and the Child Youth and Community Tribunal (CYCT) or the Convenor as an independent professional to advise and make recommendations on current applications to the Courts. The Family Court Adviser works for the Courts, independently of any other States Committees or agency, to safeguard and promote the interests of children and young people involved in family court proceedings and ensure that children's views are heard. Further information about the Guernsey Courts can be obtained from the dedicated website www.guernseyroyalcourt.gg
When does the Family Proceedings Advisory Service become involved?
- When parents or carers are separating or divorcing and have not reached agreement on the care of their children
- Or when social services have become involved and children's safety is potentially at risk
- Or when children are being adopted
The Family Court Adviser's role
- - Safeguard and promote the interests of children and young people involved in Family Court proceedings and ensure that children's views are heard
- - Make recommendations to the Courts on the best arrangements for children's care
- - Provide Family Proceedings Advisers for children in matters brought to court by the Committee for Health and Social Care, when requested to do so by the court
- - Offer a free mediation service to attempt to resolve Private Law disputes or disagreements outside of the court environment.
- The Family Court Adviser's role also includes the following:
- - To meet all the parties;
- - To collate information;
- - To carry out agency checks;
- - To gain the child's wishes and feelings
- - To facilitate communication between the parties;
- - To attend Court reviews and hearings;
- - To attend Professionals meetings;
- - When appointed as a Mediator, to mediate an agreement between the parties;
- - To liaise with parties' advocates;
- - To observe contact to inform the Family Proceedings Advisory Service's recommendation;
- - To refer to the Child Contact Services where necessary and collate contact reports;
- - To provide a report to the Court with recommendations.
- The Family Court Adviser will refer all child protection issues to the relevant agencies, but will not undertake child protection investigations.
- A Family Court Adviser is allocated as and when available, a waiting list is maintained and Family Court Advisers are allocated on a risk assessment priority.
- Family Court Advisers do not advise on financial issues or maintenance, give legal advice, therapy or counselling. The Family Proceedings Advisory Service does not replace the services of an advocate, or a social worker, or the police, or a contact supervisor.
- The Family Proceedings Advisory Service is unable to provide an emergency or out of hours service. Each Family Court Adviser is responsible for their individual cases which are not reallocated when the Family Court Adviser is on annual or sick leave.
- The Family Proceedings Advisory Service operates an appointment service; meetings with the allocated Family Court Adviser will be by appointment, within office hours unless by prior arrangement.
Public Law Family Court Advisers
- If the Committee for Health and Social Care is worried about your child's welfare, they may apply to court to take Parental Responsibility of your child via a Community Parenting Order. Children are only taken into care if the court believes that they are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of the way they are being looked after, or if the child is beyond the parents' control.
- In these cases the Family Court Adviser's role is to look carefully at the children services' work and its future care plan for your children. The Family Court Adviser will also advise the court on what should happen based on assessment of the case.
- The Family Court Adviser will talk to you and, depending on their age, to your child as well to find out their wishes and feelings. We will also talk to other members of your family and people such as teachers and health workers, and carry out checks with agencies such as the Police and Probation service
- The Family Court Adviser will then write a report for the court explaining what is thought best for your child/children, and why. The Court will read this before making a decision based on what it considers is best for your children.
- All the relevant information you provide will be included in the Family Court Adviser's report which is confidential to the court and all parties involved.
- If the Family Proceedings Advisory Service believes that a child is at immediate risk of harm it is our responsibility to contact the Committee for Health and Social Care. As we believe in the importance of working in an open and honest way we will if possible inform you before doing so.
- The Family Court Advisers are all fully trained mediators with National Family Mediation (NFM), and the Family Proceedings Advisory Service is able to offer Mediation as an alternative to a contested court hearing where both parties agree to this. The Mediation process is kept completely confidential, and if the Court appoints a Family Court Adviser to your case either before or after Mediation, records will be kept separately and no information will be shared between the mediation and the Family Proceedings Advisory Service.
- The principles of Mediation are that it is:
- Voluntary (including the mediators)
- Impartial (all information is shared)
- Confidential (exceptions would be an Open Financial Statement, or child protection and safety issues)
- Decisions are made jointly by parties
- Agreements made in mediation will be written up as a Memorandum of Understanding. They are not legally binding but may be drawn up into a Consent Order by your advocate
- How will mediation work?
- Mediation takes place through joint meetings with the help of trained, impartial professionals. The mediators are there to help you and your former partner to have a conversation about the issues that need to be resolved. Any decisions you make will be made freely by you and your former partner without pressure. As communication can at times be difficult in times of emotional stress and upset, mediation can help by providing a safe place for individuals to explore thoughts and feelings and reach agreement in a confidential setting. Meetings take place in a relaxed environment which aims to encourage open and honest communication.
- Mediation is not counselling, therapy, or marriage guidance.
- Mediators will not give advice, and will remain neutral as to the outcome, but will help you explore solutions that are appropriate for you.
- What issues can be discussed through mediation?
- Where the children will live
- When and how the children will see the non-resident parent
- How best to explain the situation to the children
- How much time children will spend with their extended family
- Who the children will spend holidays with such as Easter, Summer and Christmas
- How parents will communicate about their children
- Outside relationships and new partners
- What next?
- If you think mediation could help you can apply by contacting us yourself or through the Greffe or your advocate if you have one. Once we have received completed Mediation Referral forms from you and your ex-partner, we will hold assessment meetings with each of you to confirm suitability for mediation, at which we will collect all the relevant contact details, details of your children and your overall objective in attending mediation. You will then be contacted to arrange the sessions with you and your former partner together.
- Through mediation we hope to be able to help you concentrate on the present and the future, not the past. We hope to be able to assist you in reaching decisions which will help you to move on with your life.
- The decisions you make now will affect both you and your children into the future.
- For further information on mediation, contact National Family Mediation