Judge appoints guardian to represent two children



A High Court judge has appointed a guardian to independently represent two young teenagers at the center of a legal battle over whether they should be returned to their father, who has custody of them.

The children are staying in foster care organized by Tusla earlier this month after telling school officials that their father took their cell phones and that they did not want to go home.

The estranged father says the phones were being used to contact their mother, his ex-wife, in violation of a court order and that she poisoned them against him.

He says he placed them in voluntary care on July 2 to avoid a scene at the school but, when he requested their return the next day, Tusla did not return them.

He says there is no legal basis for them to remain in foster care, for reasons such as the district court refused to grant Tusla an emergency placement order.

Tusla says he did not act illegally and will file a request for an interim care order in district court next Monday.

There are currently four legal proceedings concerning children.

The father initiated judicial review proceedings in the High Court seeking various orders, including ordering Tusla to re-investigate his claims of parental alienation.

He claims that a previous investigation by Tusla was flawed and also wants to overturn his findings of his coercive control of the mother, which he strongly disputes.

He also filed for an injunction ordering the return of the children.

There are separate family law and district court care procedures for children.

When the High Court proceedings were brought up before Judge Anthony Barr on Tuesday, Mícheál P. O Higgins SC, on behalf of the father, requested an urgent hearing of the injunction motion.

Noting that Tusla wants an ad litem guardian to be appointed to represent the children, the lawyer argued that the request should be made formally. The mother filed a similar claim in the district court, he said.

“Essential problem”

Feichín McDonagh SC, on behalf of Tusla, said he had in no way acted unfairly. “The central problem is that there are two young adolescents who refuse to live with their father,” he said.

Whatever the reason for this, they are adamant at the moment they will not come back to him, but there has been a lot of contact to try and resolve the issues, the lawyer said.

It is essential that a guardian be appointed as the voice of the children must be heard, especially given the amendment to the Children’s Constitution, he said. It was not enough for the paternal party to say that their point of view was known, the situation required “more than one answer on a line”.

Mr O’Higgins said the district court appointed an independent family therapist to report to him and it appeared the therapist had concluded there was parental alienation, “orchestrated by the mother to poison the children far from their father “.

The therapist felt it took an uninterrupted period for the children to reunite with their father or loved one in an attempt to repair the damage caused by parental alienation, the lawyer said.

It appears that the mother has access to them over the phone, causing continued psychological damage, he added.

After hearing the parties, Judge Barr said he would appoint an ad litem guardian appointed by Tusla. He was convinced that it was in the best interests of the children and in the fairness of the litigation.

He was “very concerned that children’s voices will be heard” and the appointment of the guardian now would help move the process forward.

He adjourned the father’s injunction request for mention early next week in order to set an early hearing date.


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