Guardians ad Litem
A guardian ad litem (often known as a “GAL”) is a person the court may appoint to speak for your best interests during a court case. In juvenile proceedings, the court might decide to appoint a GAL at one of the pre-adjudication hearings. The GAL may be a lawyer, but has a different job than a lawyer hired or appointed to represent you. A lawyer who represents you will argue for you in court and advise you on the law, but will not make big decisions for you (for example, whether to confess or whether to testify). The GAL has the power to make recommendations in regard to what they believe would be in your best interests. A GAL may be appointed for you when the court finds that neither you nor your parents or regular guardians are capable of making decisions in your best interests. The court will consider your age, intelligence, mental health, the capabilities of your parents or guardians, and any other relevant factors. Having a GAL does not mean the court thinks you are unintelligent or immature. It may mean that the court thinks that getting advice from someone who is not your parent or regular guardian would be helpful to you. If you have a GAL, you should discuss any decisions with him or her and try to reach agreement as best you can. Remember that the GAL is doing what he or she thinks is best for you. For more information about GALs, see Section 5 of this Guide.