A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney the court appoints to represent the best interests, and often times the legal interests, of a child in a court proceeding. Once appointed, the GAL should participate in all future proceedings as necessary to continue to ensure the child’s interest. By law, the GAL is mandated to meet with the child as soon as possible following appointment. Additionally, the GAL should review all the relevant records related to the case and conduct further investigation as deemed necessary. Further investigation may include speaking with the child’s parents and/or guardians as well as interviewing other potential witnesses.
The GAL’s ultimate responsibility to the court is to make specific recommendations for an order that will address the child’s safety and provide for his or her best interests. The GAL’s responsibility as it relates to the child is to explain the proceedings to the child in a manner that they can understand. Additionally, the GAL is to explain the child’s position to the court along with any evidence in support of their position. A GAL must be appointed in any case where it is alleged that the child is a dependent. A GAL may be appointed in other instances such as custody cases or Protection from Abuse cases involving the child. It is possible that a child can be appointed a GAL to protect their best interests and a separate attorney to protect their legal interests.