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Guardian ad Litem Program
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a court-appointed advocate for children involved in court proceedings. The guardian ad litem represents the best interests of your child(ren) and gives recommendations to the Court about custody, visitation and support. (MN Statutes § 518.165, subd. 1).
NOTE: The role of a guardian ad litem (i.e., advocate) in a family or juvenile court case is different from the role of a person who is appointed by the court to serve as the "guardian" of a minor child in a guardianship case.
How is a Guardian ad Litem appointed?
The Court is required to appoint a guardian ad litem if it has reason to believe that your child(ren) is the victim of domestic child abuse or neglect. (MN Statutes § 518.165, subd 2.) The court may also appoint a guardian ad litem for a child in any case involving custody and visitation.
All Guardians Ad Litem appointed by Hennepin County Family Court have attended training and meet the qualifications required in the Rules of Guardian Ad Litem Procedure, which became effective January 1, 1999.
The guardian ad litem who has been appointed on behalf of your child(ren) has past experience. The guardian will do his or her best to assure you that he/she is not siding with one parent or the other. It is the Guardian’s job to act only on behalf of the child(ren), independent of the positions taken by either parent.
Pursuant to Administrative Policy No. 1, established by the Guardian ad Litem Board, a $1500 total fee will be assessed for family court cases.
What does a Guardian ad Litem do?
A guardian ad litem provides advocacy for children by gathering information to make recommendations in court regarding their best interest. They may conduct interviews and observe the children and significant people in their lives. They may review social service, medical, school, psychological and criminal records and reports.
They may attend meetings with the other professionals involved with the children and their families. They are advocates for needed services. They may outline options and make written and oral recommendations in court regarding the short and long term best interests of the children. They monitor court ordered plans to ensure the children's best interests are being met.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem required to do?
See the Rules of Guardian Ad Litem Procedure Rule 8, Subdivision 1 for a full description of their general responsibilities.
In short, they:
- Advocate on behalf of your child(ren). The Guardian ad Litem can bring a motion before the Court on behalf of the child(ren). The guardian’s responsibility is to the child, just as your attorney will advocate and be responsible for your interests.
- Facilitate the passing of information between the parties, attorneys and professionals involved with your family and make sure it is available to the Court. The Guardian also facilitates the process of reducing tensions and disputes between the parents regarding the child(ren).
- Monitor the evaluation process to ensure that all of the important information is obtained, the compliance of the parties with temporary orders regarding you and your child(ren), and that the child(ren) are protected from as much litigation as possible.
What is a Guardian ad Litem not allowed to do?
- Enforce a Court order. A guardian ad litem cannot make a party comply with a temporary order, but is responsible for notifying the Court when a parent does not follow a Court order.
- Act as a mediator between parties.
- Put any party’s interest ahead of the child(ren)’s interests.
What if I don’t think the Guardian ad Litem is doing his or her job?
If you believe the guardian ad litem is not acting in your child(ren)’s best interests, you should first talk to your attorney. Only the judge or referee assigned to your case can decide whether or not a Guardian ad Litem will be removed from the case.
You can contact the Family Court Guardian ad Litem Coordinator if you have questions or concerns about the Guardian ad Litem Program or process. A formal written complaint procedure is also available if necessary. The guidelines for the formal complaint process are available from the Coordinator at (612)596-7540.
Additional Information / Links
View the Hennepin County Family Court Guardian ad Litem brochure.
Find more information about the State of Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Program, the State GAL brochure, Rules, standards, volunteer and training opportunities and more at the State of Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Program website.
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