Guardian Ad Litem in Minnesota
What does the term “guardian ad litem” mean?
It is a legal term meaning guardian for the lawsuit. In other words, this is a temporary guardian for the duration of the court process. A guardian ad litem is not the same as a legal guardian. The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) has no control over the person or property of the child and does not provide a home for the child.
According to federal and Minnesota state law, all children whose parents may have abused or neglected them must have a guardian ad litem. A child might also need a guardian ad litem if someone other than the child’s parents (such as a relative) wants custody of the child.
Guardians ad Litem may be either professionals or volunteers and are appointed by the Juvenile or Family Court to represent a child’s best interests in court proceedings.
The primary duty of the GAL is to represent and advocate for the best interests of the child. The GAL does not function as the child’s attorney and does not provide direct social services to the child.
Why does a child need a guardian ad litem?
When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson–an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, they may also have other interests. The GAL is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interests of the child.
What are functions of a guardian ad litem?
They will gather information for the court, documenting what has happened to the child and the current needs and circumstances of the child.
Recommendations will be made to the court regarding insuring child safety, need for treatment plans, and permanent solutions that insure the child’s well being.
Guardians ad litem attend every court hearing and in some situations may be a witness. The GAL makes written or oral reports and recommendation. Judges count on GALs to be an independent voice. They know that GALs may have more time to focus on specific cases. A GAL who can tell the court “I was there–this is what I observed” can be invaluable.
The GAL will monitor the services provided, progress made, and further issues that need to be addressed.
How does a guardian ad litem decide what is best for the child?
The GAL talks with everyone who knows a lot about the child. This includes the child, parents, relatives, foster parents, teachers, social workers, psychologists, doctors and others with important information. The GAL reads the reports written about the child/family. Sometimes, the GAL will ask other professionals to help the GAL learn about the child’s needs. The GAL visits where the child lives and where the child might go to live. The GAL also learns about the services available for the child and family.
Adapted from: MNCourts.gov