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What is a GAL?

A Guardian ad Litem is an advocate for a child whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court. In legal terms, it means "guardian of the lawsuit."

When the court is making decisions that will affect a child's future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson -- an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, the Guardian ad Litem is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interests of the child and he or she is assigned as an advocate for the child for the durations of the court process.

Different from a legal guardian, the Guardian ad Litem has no control over the person or property of the child and does not provide a home for the child. The Guardian ad Litem does not function as the child's attorney and does not provide direct services to the child.

Guardians Ad Litem conduct interviews and observe the children and significant people in their lives. They review social service, medical, school, psychological and criminal records and reports. They attend meetings with the other professionals involved with the children and their families. They 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. . Finally, it is not the GAL's job to make decisions about the child's future, but to make recommendations to the court to enable the court to make the best possible decision.

Guardians ad Litem in Minnesota include specially trained community volunteers and state employees.

"Justice for children cannot be sought, let alone achieved, if their voice is not represented in the hearings that determine their fate. Guardians ad Litem are that voice."

-Former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz, Minnesota Supreme Court

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