Guardian ad litem is the term given to a court-appointed person to represent the best interests of an individual who is unable to represent him, like minors, incapacitated persons or an incompetent persons. For example, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a minor in guardianship or protective placement during the court process. A guardian ad litem should be a licensed attorney who is not related to the individual to be represented or a party to the court proceedings.
Guardian ad Litem Duties and Responsibilities
The guardian ad litem is tasked with representing the right and best interest of the individual for whom the court has appointed her. This representation may not be in alignment with the interest or wishes of the individual whom the guardian ad litem represents. The individual is to be represented with the same rights as any other citizen with the least permissible restrictions on the individual’s constitutional rights.
As part of the representation of best interests, the guardian ad litem is not permitted to advocate on behalf of, or advise any party involved in the case. This may show bias and create an impression that the party is being represented by the guardian ad litem as an attorney.
Avoid Conflict of Interest
When carrying out guardian ad litem duties and responsibilities, the guardian ad litem should avoid any type of conflict of interest or impropriety. The guardian ad litem is required to avoid self-dealing or any associations that result in the guardian ad litem benefiting either directly or indirectly. The main duty of the guardian ad litem is to represent the individual the court specifies, and must take immediate action to resolve any conflicts or impropriety that arises. The guardian ad litem does this by advising the court to provide direction or by resigning from the case.
For example, a conflict of interest in a case whereby the guardian ad litem’s responsibilities to the individual represented are limited by the guardian ad litem’s responsibilities to another client.
Provide Relevant Information to the Court
The guardian ad litem has a responsibility to provide information to the court in a timely manner without any delays. The guardian ad litem is required by law to file a written report with the court and interested parties, no later than 10 days prior to when a hearing is scheduled. The report that the guardian ad litem files with the court should be accompanied by a detailed list of documents that were reviewed as part of the case or brought to the guardian ad litem’s attention through interviews of various persons during the course of an investigation.
Comply with Court Instructions
The court sets out instructions that the guardian ad litem must comply with. The guardian ad litem is not expected to provide services beyond the scope of what the court instructs. Changes to these responsibilities may be requested by a special motion to the court and after giving adequate notice to the concerned parties. The court may rule in favor of the individual being represented by the guardian ad litem, provide additional clarification, expansion or instruction of the scope of the guardian ad litem’s responsibilities.
As part of the court’s instructions, it is the duty of the guardian ad litem, to inform the individual being represented about her role and responsibilities in the case.
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