Thursday, December 4, 2014

What you need to know about a Guardian ad Litem:

A Guardian ad Litem may be an attorney, psychologist or social worker who has been appointed by the Domestic Relations or Juvenile Court to represent a child who is involved in a legal proceeding and/or to advise the Court as to what they believe is in the child’s best interests. Individuals who serve as a Guardian ad Litem typically have training and experience involving interviewing children, identifying domestic violence and dealing with substance abuse. There are requirements which individuals must meet in order to serve as a Guardian ad Litem.

The Guardian ad Litem, or GAL, role in the Domestic Relations court is to  specifically  protect the interests of a minor child. They do so by maintaining objectivity regarding all parties involved. GALs are to appear and/or participate in all hearings. They will also ask the court, submitted in writing, to resolve conflicts.  The Guardian may request psychological evaluations or substance abuse assessments when necessary. A Guardian ad Litem is also required to avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest that may arise from any relationship or activity.

A GAL will make reasonable efforts to become informed about the facts of the case they do so by meeting with and interviewing the child and observing the child with each parent, foster parent, guardian or physical custodian and conducting at least one interview with the child where none of these individuals is present.

The Guardian ad Litem may visit the child at his or her residence in accordance with any court-established standards, and will ascertain the child’s wishes. Further the GAL will meet with and interview the parties, foster parents and other individuals who may have relevant knowledge of the case’s issues. Including interviewing school personnel, medical and mental health providers, child protective services workers and relevant court personnel.

The GAL will review relevant court documents whether they be criminal, civil, educational and administrative records pertaining to the child and, if appropriate, to the child’s family or to other parties, and obtain copies of relevant records.  
Finally the Guardian ad Litem will provide the court with a written report of the activities listed above, and a recommendation based on their findings.  

For more information regarding this topic, or to schedule an appointment, contact Joseph Stafford at 216.241.1074