The role of a Guardian ad Litem is important in dependency cases. In Maricopa County, a GAL is automatically appointed for the child(ren) when a Dependency Petition is filed. The GAL is required to assess the well being of the children on the case and report their findings to the court. In order to ensure this occurs the rules require GALs to meet with the children within 14 days of being appointed as their GAL (Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-221J). GALs are also required to meet with the children prior to every substantive hearing, unless the visit is waived by the court. GAL’s are required to file a compliance report with the court to ensure that the GAL’s are meeting with their children.
In addition to GAL’s, older children may also have an attorney appointed to represent them. The general rule is that children 12 or older may have an attorney appointed to represent them in cases where their desires are different than the best interests recommendations from a GAL. One example could be when a 15 year old child wants to return home to the care of their parent(s) but the GAL is not in agreement with that wish. The GAL can request that the court appoint an attorney to advocate for the child.
Frequent and open communication with the GAL is crucial to the successful flow of information to the court. Placements provide a unique perspective as it relates to the care of the children. At the outset of having a child placed in their care, placements should obtain contact information from the team assigned to the case. The team is made up of the GAL, the investigative/ongoing case manager, and additional service providers. Given that case managers frequently change on a case, it is also recommended that placements obtain the case manager’s supervisor’s phone number. Email contact is the preferred method of contact with the GAL. Please remember to include the name of the child and the case number if you have it accessible and put that in the subject line.
It is important to remember that the role of the GAL is to look at what is in the best interests of the child. GAL’s are not permitted to provide legal advice to placements (some may choose to do it). If you have any questions feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for you dedication to the children!
Ed Johnson, Esq.