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Guidance on replacing a deputy following an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship

Deputies are appointed by the Court of Protection to manage the affairs of a person who lacks capacity to manage their own affairs (the protected party).

When an application is made to appoint a deputy, the court considers all of the protected party’s circumstances and will appoint a deputy if they consider it to be in the protected party’s best interests.

An application to remove the deputy is therefore a matter which the court takes very seriously. A deputy can be removed for several reasons, including:

  • The protected party regaining capacity;
  • In the case of a professional deputy, retirement or ill health;
  • A breakdown in the relationship between the deputy and the protected party, or the protected party’s family and friends;
  • The deputy is no longer acting in the best interests of the protected party.

What can the protected party’s family or friends do if they believe there has been a breakdown in the relationship with the deputy?

In the first instance, the Court of Protection expects constructive engagement between the protected party, their family and support network, and the deputy to understand how and why decisions are being made, and address any concerns that the protected party or their family may have.

This may initially involve discussions between the deputy and family directly, but may require the involvement of a third party to mediate those discussions. That person could be anyone who is trusted by all parties, such as the case manager, care team, or a professional mediator.

If those discussions are not successful, and no other pragmatic way forward can be found, an interested party can apply to the court to revoke a deputy’s appointment. The court is only likely to do so if it considers there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between the deputy and the protected party or their family.

The application can be brought by any interested party, including the protected party themselves. The applicant must establish that changing the deputy would be in the protected party’s best interests.

The applicant must persuade the court that the reasons it considered the appointment to be in the protected party’s best interests in the first instance are no longer the case. Changing a deputy is costly to the protected party, and can be very emotionally draining and time consuming, and these costs must be justified.

The applicant will need to demonstrate whose relationship has broken down, why there has been a breakdown in the relationship, what efforts have been made to repair the relationship, and why it is not in the protected party’s best interests that the relationship continues in this manner. Simply evidencing that a breakdown in the relationship has taken place is not sufficient, the applicant must be able to establish why it cannot be repaired.

The proposed deputy will then also need to persuade the court that it is in the protected party’s best interests for them to be appointed as deputy.

Occasionally, it may be more suitable to apply to the court for a specific best interests decision if the relationship has not entirely broken down, but the deputy, protected party, and family cannot agree on a specific decision being made for the protected party.

For further information on removing a deputy, including other circumstances in which a deputy may be removed, please see this podcast on the topic, COP Conversations: in what circumstances might a deputy or attorney be removed. For more information on best interests decisions, please see this short video on the topic What is a ‘best interests’ decision?.

If you are experiencing difficulties with the appointment of a deputy for yourself or a loved one and would like to discuss your options, please contact Holly Mieville-Hawkins or another member of the team.