The role of independent ‘16.4 Guardians’

26th May 2023


by Daniel Sims, Solicitor

A key aspect of many relationship breakdowns is the arrangements that will be made for the couple’s children. Sometimes this is relatively straightforward but not always. Occasionally, in court cases regarding child arrangements, it is necessary for the child to have their interests put forward formally.  This might happen if there are significant parental disputes or complex issues such as parental alcohol/drug consumption, parental alienation or implacable hostility.

In these circumstances, someone known as a ‘16.4 guardian’ can be appointed to represent the child’s views and more importantly, their best interests, independently of what the parents are saying. The guardians are professionally qualified and experienced social workers who will arrange for the child to have their own solicitor. The parents will not need to pay for this additional legal support as it will be publicly funded.

Together, the guardian and solicitor will consider all the paperwork, liaise with teachers, doctors – the child themselves if old enough to express a view – and put together reports, with recommendations about what they think is the best way forward.

A guardian can be involved in a case, with the family, for several months, until a Final Order has been made by the court.

It is important for the parents to work cooperatively with the guardian to ensure that the child’s needs are best considered and met. A guardian will not usually share parental responsibility – the ability to make medical or schooling decisions – but their guidance should be considered and followed.

Guardians are not routinely appointed because of the significant costs and resources required. It is usually sufficient to consider the circumstances of a case with the benefit of at least initial CAFCASS/Children’s Services guidance, but some cases will call for this extra level of detail and oversight.

The Family Department at Fraser Dawbarns has recent experience of acting for parents in court proceedings involving 16.4 guardians and can advise on the process and assist if required.


This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek advice specific to your own circumstances.  Fraser Dawbarns LLP are always happy to provide such advice.

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