News and Events

Wardship proceedings back in the limelight

View profile for Graeme Barclay
  • Posted
  • Author

The world of family law has evolved greatly over recent years, with the media heavily commenting on the removal of Legal Aid, the number of couples divorcing on the rise and the introduction of compulsory Mediation.  It’s only recently however that children becoming wards of court has been a topic of conversation.  Graeme Barclay, Family Partner, explains exactly what wardship proceedings are and the implications for families.

“It is true that wardship proceedings have become largely redundant since the introduction of the Children Act 1989 and it seems that some assumed that they no longer existed,” begins Graeme.  “Prior to the Children Act, wardship proceedings were often the only course of action for Local Authorities, relatives who were unable to initiate proceedings and in some instances parents who were otherwise powerless under the arguably inadequate legislation of the time.  The Children Act signified a move to a much more child focussed approach and provided a statutory scheme to deal with most situations that were previously dealt with through wardship, hence the dramatic decline in those proceedings.

“When a child is made a ward of court, the court will take over ultimate responsibility for the child and will share parental responsibility with those who already have it,” explains Graeme.  “No important step can be made in relation to the child without the approval of the court, such as living arrangements, school attendance and medical treatment.  However, if there is a dispute, the court will need to adjudicate over that and it will ultimately be the decision of the judge.”

Graeme continues, “There are of course other circumstances where wardship would be appropriate and these include such things as the restraint of publicity, prevention of undesirable association, protection of abducted children and the return of children from a foreign state.  There are restrictions upon the orders that a judge is able to make within wardship proceedings, which include being unable to require a child to be placed into care, put under the supervision of the local authority, or to require a child to be accommodated by the local authority.

“Recent news has served as a clear reminder of wardship proceedings and the appropriateness of their use in some occasions,” concludes Graeme.  “Wardship proceedings, when done correctly, can allow families to remain together whilst particular issues in dispute are determined by the court.”

If you would like any advice on wardship proceedings or making arrangements for your family, contact Graeme or the Family Team on 02380 717431 or visit their section of the website here.


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.