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What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?

During certain types of legal disputes, a court may appoint a legal representative called a "guardian ad litem" to defend the rights of a child or other person who may need help protecting their best interests.

If you're involved in a court case involving a guardian ad litem, especially as a parent, understanding what precisely guardians ad litem do (and when you may encounter one) can help you navigate your dispute more easily.

To receive experienced legal counsel for your family law case, contact our office online or via phone at (626) 340-0955.

What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

According to California Code, a court can appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent a "minor, a person who lacks legal capacity to make decisions, or a person for whom a conservator has been appointed" if the court thinks doing so is appropriate.

GALs act as a legal advocate for their ward (the individual they represent in court), helping the court ensure that any judgments genuinely represent the ward's best interests. GALs often fill the role of legal representative (like a lawyer), but they're involved in a wide range of other processes during court cases involving minors, individuals who lack capacity, and individuals who possess a conservator.

Q: What does it mean to "lack capacity?"

A: A person without "capacity" lacks the physical or mental ability to care for themself or promote their best interests. In disability cases, GALs often work with courts to verify that an individual lacks capacity through verification from medical professionals.

What Types of Cases to Guardians Ad Litem Take On?

GALs often handle the following types of cases:

  • High-conflict custody cases in which the court may want an additional legal representative to ensure the child(ren) and their wishes are adequately seen to while the parents engage in a custody battle.
  • Conservator or guardianship cases in which the court wishes to appoint a legal representative for an individual that allegedly lacks capacity before allowing a conservator or guardian to care for that person. An individual alleged of lacking capacity can push back against the need for a GAL if they so wish.
  • Trust or probate cases in which the court wishes to utilize a GAL to protect the financial and general wellbeing of a child or individual that lacks capacity and may receive property from a trust or will.
  • Disability cases in which the disabled person requires a legal advocate who can voice their rights to the court.
  • Adoption and emancipation cases in which the court needs to ensure a child's voice is heard and represented in court by a legal professional.

A family lawyer can help you navigate the above types of cases and interface more effectively with a GAL, ensuring that your child or loved one pursues the best outcome in a family law dispute.

To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about our services, contact us online or via phone at (626) 340-0955.

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