The court appoints a Guardian ad Litem to protect the rights and advocate the best interests of a child involved in a court proceeding. Indiana court proceedings that might require a Guardian ad Litem include Child in Need of Services cases; Termination of Parental Rights cases; and child custody cases.
When I am appointed as Guardian ad Litem, the courts select me because of my legal knowledge and my experience as an attorney, and I have represented numerous clients in all categories of GAL cases. As Guardian ad Litem, I consider the best interests and needs of each child in a particular case, and I make an independent recommendation to the court based on my professional assessment. Some primary factors I consider in my investigation are the child’s physical safety, emotional well-being, and finding a permanent, stable and nurturing home where the child can thrive in his or her growth and development.
Indiana Code § 31-17-6-1 through 31-17-6-9 authorizes the appointment of Guardians ad Litem (GAL) and court appointed special advocates (CASA), but it makes no distinction between the two. A CASA is a citizen volunteer who has been recruited and trained to advocate the best interests of abused and neglected children, but a CASA is not a professional attorney. It is important to understand that a GAL is not a volunteer but a professional attorney experienced with Indiana laws, courtroom procedures, Rules of Evidence, how to present evidence and interrogate witnesses, and legal jargon. In fact, as a GAL attorney, I am also appointed to represent the CASA in more complicated cases.
As attorney GAL, I can represent the child’s best interests, but there is no confidentiality requirement between the child and me, unless the court also appoints me to represent the child in a regular attorney-client relationship advocating the child’s desires as well as his or her needs.
My responsibilities as GAL include:
Gathering information from parents, siblings, grandparents or any other family members, daycare providers, friends or neighbors with pertinent information;
Reviewing the child’s school records and gathering information from school personnel;
Reviewing the child’s medical records and speaking to the doctor when necessary;
Reviewing the parents or other caregivers’ medical records, and obtaining information from the doctors when necessary;
Interviewing the child;
Determining whether appropriate services are being provided to the child and family;
Preparing and submitting a written report to the court recommending placement or custody, parenting time plan, educational or medical services; all in the best interests of the child;
Attending and advocating in court hearings and other related meetings.
In October 2013, I completed the Indiana Continuing Legal Education course, “Training for GAL Attorneys Representing Children.”
Children in Need of Services
Adult and Child Guardianships
Termination of Parental Rights