guardian ad litem n. a person appointed by the court only to take legal action on behalf of a minor or an adult not able to handle his/her own affairs. Duties may include filing a lawsuit for an injured child, defending a lawsuit, or filing a claim against an estate. Usually a parent will file a petition to be appointed the guardian ad litem of a child hurt in an accident at the same time the lawsuit is filed.
All information, records, and reports obtained or created by a guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocate, or investigator under this title shall be discoverable pursuant to statute and court rule. The guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocate, or investigator shall not release private or confidential information to any nonparty except pursuant to a court order signed by a judge. The guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocate, or investigator may share private or confidential information with experts or staff he or she has retained as necessary to perform the duties of guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocate, or investigator. Any expert or staff retained are subject to the confidentiality rules governing the guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocate, or investigator. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to authorize disclosure of guardian ad litem records in personal injury actions.
The Court Ruled.... If You Are Not Related To The Person... You Can Not Ask The Court To Do Anything About or For This Person. NO Guardian Ad Litem AT ALL !
PROFESSIONALISM AND THE GAL by
Chancellor Rommel P. Westlaw Pro-Se
Professionalism Principles for GALs Competence.
A GAL is required to maintain the required certification. Beyond that, the GAL must maintain CLE and demonstrate knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation. Promptness.
Complies with the court’s deadlines and does everything possible to move the case forward. A GAL does not delay the cause without justification. Diligence.
Interviews all witnesses and reviews all relevant evidence to ensure that the appropriate action is taken for the best interest of the children. Investigates to discover any pertinent information not disclosed by the participants. A GAL does not neglect to perform the task assigned. Timely submits a report addressing all relevant considerations. Fairness.
The GAL’s duty is to protect the best interest of the children, not to advocate for any of the litigant parties. The GAL must have no conflict of interest. The GAL maintains neutrality and the appearance of impartiality consistent with this duty. Zeal in protecting the best interest of children.
Pursues the best interest of the children actively through reasonably available means permitted by law and the rules of professional conduct. Knowledge of the applicable law.
Is current in the law applicable to the case, and develops legal authority to support the GAL report. Candor with the Court.
Communicates with the court through properly noticed pleadings as to all matters affecting the best interest of the children, the cooperation of the parties, any impropriety, and need for a change in the role assigned. Fidelity to the role assigned.
Acts within the scope of the role assigned by the court. Independence.
Maintains and exercises independent judgment about the best interests of the children. Willingness to accept appointments.
Rule 6.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct requires that lawyers not seek to avoid appointments except under certain specified conditions. The fact that the appointment would be controversial or unpopular is not in and of itself a disqualifying factor.
A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and propertyinterests of another person, called a ward. Usually, a person has the status of guardian because the ward is incapable of caring for his or her own interests due to infancy, incapacity, or disability. Most countries and states have laws that provide that the parents of a minor child are the legal guardians of that child, and that the parents can designate who shall become the child's legal guardian in the event of death, subject to the approval of the court.
Courts generally have the power to appoint a guardian for an individual in need of special protection. A guardian with responsibility for both the personal well-being and the financial interests of the ward is a general guardian. A person may also be appointed as a special guardian, having limited powers over the interests of the ward. A special guardian may, for example, be given the legal right to determine the disposition of the ward's property without being given any authority over the ward's person.
Legal guardians may be appointed in guardianship cases for adults (see also conservatorship). For example, parents may start a guardianship action to become the guardians of a developmentally disabled child when the child reaches the age of majority. Or, children may need to file a guardianship action for a parent when the parent has failed to prepare a power of attorney and now has dementia.
Depending on the jurisdiction, a legal guardian may be called a "conservator", "custodian", or curator. Many jurisdictions and the Uniform Probate Code distinguish between a "guardian" or "guardian of the person" who is an individual with authority over and fiduciary responsibilities for the physical person of the ward, and a "conservator" or "guardian of the property" of a ward who has authority over and fiduciary responsibilities for significant property (often an inheritance or personal injury settlement) belonging to the ward. Some jurisdictions provide for public guardianship programs serving incapacitated adults or children.
A guardian is a fiduciary and is held to a very high standard of care in exercising his or her powers. If the ward owns substantial property the guardian may be required to give a surety bond to protect the ward in the event that dishonesty or incompetence on his or her part causes financial loss to the ward.
Some jurisdictions allow a parent of a child to exercise the authority of a legal guardian without a formal court appointment. In such circumstances the parent acting in that capacity is called the natural guardian of that parent's child.
Guardians ad litem (GALs) are not the same as 'legal guardians' and are often appointed in under-age-children cases, many times to represent the interests of the minor children. Guardians ad litem may be called, in some US states, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). They are the voice of the child and may represent the child in court, with many judges adhering to any recommendation given by a GAL. GALs may assist where a child is removed from a hostile environment, usually by the (state) Department of Social Services, and in those cases may assist in the protection of the minor child.
Qualifications vary by state, ranging from no experience or qualification, volunteers to social workers to attorneys to others. The GAL's only job is to represent the minor children's best interest and advise the court. A guardian ad litem is an officer of the court and does not represent the parties in the suit. Training and qualifications vary from state-to-state.
Although a guardian ad litem working through a CASA program volunteers their services, some guardians ad litem are paid for their services. They must submit detailed time and expense reports to the court for approval. Their fees are taxed as costs in the case. Courts may order all parties to share in the cost, or the court may order a particular party to pay the fees.
Guardians ad litem are also appointed in cases where there has been an allegation of child abuse, child neglect, PINS, juvenile delinquency, or dependency. In these situations, the guardian ad litem is charged to represent the best interests of the minor child which can differ from the position of the state or government agency as well as the interest of the parent or guardian. These guardians ad litem vary by jurisdiction and can be volunteer advocates or attorneys. For example, in North Carolina, trained GAL volunteers are paired with attorney advocates to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children. The program defines a child's best interest as a safe, permanent home.
A guardian ad litem is a guardian appointed by a court to protect the interests of a minor or incompetent in a particular matter. State law and local court rules govern the appointment of guardian ad litems. Typically, the court may appoint either a lawyer or a court appointed special advocate volunteer to serve as guardian ad litem in juvenile matters, family court matters, probate matters, and domestic relations matters. The guardian ad litem is not expected to make diagnostic or therapeutic recommendations but is expected to provide an information base from which to draw resources. As authorized by law the guardian ad litem may present evidence and ensure that, where appropriate, witnesses are called and examined, including, but not limited to, foster parents and psychiatric, psychological, medical, or other expert witnesses.
A guardian ad litem must observe all statutes, rules and regulations concerning confidentiality. A guardian ad litem shall not disclose information or participate in the disclosure of information relating to an appointed case to any person who is not a party to the case, except as necessary to perform the guardian ad litem duties or as may be specifically provided by law.
Specialized training of guardian ad litems may be required, which includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:
Dynamics of child abuse and neglect issues
Factors to consider in the determining the best interest of the child, including permanency planningInter-relationships between family system, legal process and the child welfare system Mediation and negotiation skillsFederal, state and local legislation and case law affecting children Cultural and ethnic diversity and gender-specific issues Family and domestic violence issues Available community resources and services Child development issues Guardian ad litem standards
Guardian ad litems are also appointed to manage the business and personal affairs of elderly who are no longer able to handle such matters. The guardian ad litem may be responsible for bill payment, balancing bank accounts, making health care decisions, and other responsibilities. A guardian ad litem may have the authority, in the event that the incapacitated person is in need of emergency life-saving medical services, and is unable to consent to such medical services due to incapacity, to give consent for such emergency life-saving medical services on behalf of the alleged incapacitated person. The guardian ad litem also must protect the incapacitated person from abuse, neglect, abandonment, or exploitation.
Guardian Ad LitemA guardian appointed by the court to represent the interests ofInfants, the unborn, or incompetent persons in legal actions.
Guardians are adults who are legally responsible for protecting the well-being and interests of their ward, who is usually a minor. A guardian ad litem is a unique type of guardian in a relationship that has been created by a court order only for the duration of a legal action. Courts appoint these special representatives for infants, minors, and mentally incompetent persons, all of whom generally need help protecting their rights in court. Such court-appointed guardians figure in divorces, child neglect and abuse cases, paternity suits, contested inheritances, and so forth, and are usually attorneys.
The concept of guardian ad litem grew out of developments in U.S. law in the late nineteenth century. Until then, the Common Law had severely restricted who could bring lawsuits in federal courts; it was easiest to sue in states through Equity courts. Changes in the 1870s relaxed these standards by bringing federal codes in line with state codes, and in 1938, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure removed the old barriers by establishing one system for civil actions. Rule 17(c) addresses the rights of children and incompetent persons in three ways. First, it permits legal guardians to sue or defend on the behalf of minors or incompetent individuals. Second, it allows persons who do not have such a representative to name a "next friend," or guardian ad litem, to sue for them. And third, it states that federal courts "shall appoint a guardian ad litem for an infant or incompetent person not otherwise represented in an action or shall make such other order as it deems proper for [his or her] protection." In practice, the courts have interpreted this last provision broadly: the term infants is taken to mean unborn children and all minors. In addition, courts can exercise discretion; they are not required to appoint a guardian ad litem.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the importance of the guardian ad litem grew in response to increased concern about children's welfare. Two social developments brought about this growth: a rise in Divorce cases, and greater recognition of the gravity of Child Abuse and neglect. Because states had generally modeled their civil court processes on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the role of guardian ad litem was well established. But now, states began moving toward stronger legislation of their own. By the 1990s, many states had enacted laws specifying the guardians' qualifications, duties, and authority. Equally important, these laws spelled out requirements for the appointment of guardians ad litem in abuse cases. As a leader in the area, Florida enacted legislation in 1990 providing funding for the training of guardians ad litem (State of Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program Guidelines for Family Law Case Appointment, Fla. Stat. § 61.104). In 1993, after hearing an appeal in a particularly horrifying abuse case, the Supreme Court of West Virginia set forth guidelines for guardians ad litem in its decision (In Re Jeffrey R. L., 190 W. Va. 24, 435 S.E.2d 162 ).
Guardians ad litem have extensive power and responsibility. Their duties are greatest in cases involving children, where they investigate, attend to the child's emotional and legal needs, monitor the child's family, and seek to shield the child from the often bruising experience of a lawsuit. Their function as officers of the court is also extensive: in addition to compiling relevant facts, interviewing witnesses, giving testimony, and making recommendations to the court on issues of custody and visitation, they ensure that all parties comply with court orders. Given the rigors of the task, which is often voluntary or low paid, it is not surprising that courts have traditionally had difficulty finding adequate numbers of qualified individuals to serve as guardians ad litem.
In the mid-1990s, the role of guardian ad litem provoked new concerns. Whereas many attorneys perceived a need for guardians ad litem to be appointed in all Child Custody proceedings, others expressed caution about the risk of lawsuits. Particularly for attorneys serving as guardians ad litem in divorce cases, this risk was high: parents upset with the result of a custody ruling might sue the guardian, just as a number of parties had in the 1980s brought action against government agencies involved in child welfare cases. Lawyers worried that the guardian ad litem system had become potentially dangerous for those whose rights it had been designed to protect, some of society's weakest members.
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