Sometimes a child does not receive proper care at home from parents or caregivers. If a child is suffering from abuse or neglect and is not of legal age, the child may have no one to turn to for help. This is where the government may step in, appointing someone to provide a voice and advocacy for the child. This person is a guardian ad litem.
A guardian ad litem is not a guardian or a conservator. A GAL serves only until the court approves a permanent solution to the case. North Carolina courts appoint GALs for neglect or abuse petitions and in some cases involving dependency.
What are the duties of a guardian ad litem?
According to the North Carolina Judicial Branch website, GALs have a number of important duties. They speak with the child involved in the case as well as with the parents or guardians in order to gather information about the living condition of the child and what the child needs. A GAL will protect the privacy of the child by keeping the case information confidential. GALs also provide testimony about the case before a court and will recommend how to meet the best interests of the child.
Who protects the legal rights of the child?
While a GAL can do a lot to help a child in need, the responsibilities of a GAL may not include representing the legal rights of the child. Some GALs are attorneys and have the qualifications to be a legal advocate for the child. However, a person does not need legal education or experience to be a GAL. A court may accept someone as a GAL who has a sincere desire to help a neglected or abused child.
If a GAL is not an attorney, the court will appoint a separate person, a guardian ad litem attorney advocate, to protect the legal rights of the child. The GAL attorney and the GAL volunteer will work together to investigate the situation of the child and come up with the best solution possible to help the child out of a bad situation.