Understanding the Role of the Guardian ad Litem

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If you are like most people, you have probably never really given much thought to what goes on in a courtroom when a minor or disabled adult needs someone else to make decisions for them. These situations are quite rare for the majority of the population. However, when it happens to you and your family and you need to obtain court authority to make critical decisions on someone else’s behalf, it can be an overwhelming and daunting task.

Guardianship cases are among the most common types of cases in which people end up being unrepresented in court. This means that there are a lot of folks who end up in court, representing themselves, stumbling through one obstacle after another, all in an effort to do the right thing to protect someone else. Sadly, it can be costly and end up depleting good people of time and money. One of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of these cases is the appointment of a guardian ad litem. This person, almost always a trained and licensed attorney, will get involved early on in the process and begin making recommendations to the court, which may at times conflict with what you are trying to accomplish.

At Five Points Law Group, we can help. If you need to obtain guardianship or conservatorship over another person, we can help guide you through the process.

Who is the Guardian ad Litem?

 

In cases involving your children (minors), a guardian ad litem (GAL) is almost always appointed in order to be the eyes and ears of the court and to make recommendations regarding what is in the best interests of the child. Once an adult petitions for guardianship of a child, a judge will appoint a GAL to interview the petitioner, parents, the child, and anyone else involved. The goal is to ensure that everyone involved is acting in the interests of the child. If there are any concerns, the GAL’s report will detail those issues to the judge. In a case involving a disabled adult, the role is very much the same.

Can the GAL Give Legal Advice?

 

While GALs are not there to represent the parties, they can at times assist in guiding the process. However, you should use caution when dealing with a GAL. Remember that they owe you no ethical duty of confidentiality or any duties as an attorney. Everything you say to a GAL could easily be repeated in reports to the court or in open court discussions. The GAL is not your attorney, and they really do not take sides. They are simply there to advise the court and render opinions to protect the individual whose rights are affected.

So, Who Represents the Person Applying to be a Guardian?

 

You need your own attorney. An unrepresented petitioner seeking guardianship over a child or disabled adult is at a distinct disadvantage, especially if someone else files a cross-petition seeking the role. A skilled attorney can effectively draft the right documents and argue on your behalf at a hearing. If there are conflicts or if the GAL renders a negative report, your attorney can help you dispute their findings, as well.

For help with an Alabama guardianship or conservatorship, call Five Points Law Group Today.

Burton Dunn
Burton Dunn
Burton currently advises clients on their probate law, elder law and estate planning needs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans’ Affairs, estate and trust litigation matters, mental health issues, guardianships/conservatorships, and adoptions.

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