Guardian ad Litem (GAL)
B.1 Definition of a GAL
A GAL is a court appointed advisor with specialized training and a set of knowledge, who may be appointed by the Court to represent the child’s best interest pursuant to: N.C. Gen. Stat. §1A-1, Rule 17(b)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure; N.C. Gen. Stat. §8C-1, Rule 701 of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence; and the Court’s inherent authority to administer justice.
B.2 Purpose of a GAL
GALs represent the best interests of minor child(ren) in contested custody and visitation proceedings. The GAL acts as an investigator and facilitator of services in an attempt to resolve conflicts outside of the courtroom and to promote effective co-parenting focused on the best interests of the child(ren). The GAL shall make recommendations to the parties and to the Court regarding any issues affecting the child(ren)’s welfare.
B.3 Education and Training of a GAL
A registry of GALs and their qualifications, including training certification, shall be maintained by the District Court. GALs shall be chosen from the list maintained by the District Court. To be included on the list, a GAL must provide documentation of the following:
a. Education: Masters or Ph.D. degree in psychology, law, social work, counseling, medicine or related degree(s).
b. Training and experience:
- no less than five years of related post degree experience;
- have participated in Judicial District 15B’s Civil District GAL training, or other comparable training program, which consists of at least 24 hours of training in topics of developmental stages of children, dynamics of high conflict families, stages and effects of divorce, problem solving techniques and legal issues. To demonstrate a “comparable training program,” the candidate shall provide training materials, training agenda, and certificate of completion to the Center for Cooperative Parenting to be reviewed and forwarded to the Chief District Court Judge for approval;
- participate in an ongoing seminar which will provide continuing education, group discussion, and peer review and support on a no less than quarterly basis. Best practice is to attend peer review on a monthly basis when a GAL has an active case. It is the obligation of the GAL to maintain records of his or her attendance at peer review and to provide the same to the Center for Cooperative Parenting; and
- no individual who within the previous 3 years has been a participant in custody litigation may seek approval as a GAL
c. One must provide:
- a current resume or curriculum vitae;
- proof of licensure/certification; and
- certificate of completion of GAL training
d. When a GAL has been assigned to an active case, he or she must submit notice of such appointment to the Center for Cooperative Parenting.
e. Information regarding the Center for Cooperative Parenting is located at www.centerforcooperativeparenting.org.
Non-compliance with any of the requirements of this section will result in removal from the District 15B GAL list.
f. To be reinstated after removal:
- If the removal was for failure to participate in peer supervision, the applicant will be suspended from the appointment list for a period of one year, during which he/she must attend at least 4 peer supervision meetings, before applying for reinstatement.
- If the removal was for any other reason, application for reinstatement must be made to the Chief District Court Judge along with documentation of efforts to address the reason for removal.
B.4 Appointment of a GAL
a. If mediation is waived or does not result in a parenting agreement, the Court shall, in its discretion, appoint a GAL at the status conference, or sooner upon agreement of the parties, if the Court finds that:
- the parties’ conflict represents a “high conflict” case in which the child(ren)’s welfare is at risk as a result of the parties’ conflict, or
- that it is in the best interest of the child(ren) to appoint a GAL.
b. Every effort should be made to enter such order upon consent of the parties.
c. If the parties have agreed upon any evaluation(s) or Parenting Coordinator appointment, or one has been ordered, the appointment of a GAL may be pursuant to specific identified responsibilities, in order to prevent overlap or duplication of services
d. The Court may appoint a GAL without the consent of the parties or upon its own motion. If the Court determines that a GAL should be appointed, the Court shall prepare an Order of Appointment or may direct counsel for the parties to do so.
e. The Court shall make the appointment of a GAL contingent upon the parties’ payment for services provided by the GAL, which may be allocated between the parties in proportion to the parties’ respective incomes, shared equally, or any other proportion the Court determines to be fair and equitable. The GAL shall not begin his or her duties, or be required to continue their services, until the fee has been paid by both parties and the appointment order has been entered. The fees may include the cost of consultation with an experienced mental health professional.
f. The GAL shall be entitled to reasonable compensation for services rendered and to a reasonable prepayment. Either party or the GAL may request a hearing in the event of a fee dispute.
g. Attorneys, self-represented parties, or the Court should make every effort to secure the agreement and availability of the GAL prior to entry of the appointment order.
h. Upon entry of the appointment order, the GAL shall be provided:
- a copy of the appointment order;
- contact information for parties and their attorneys;
- copies of any pleadings;
- a list of specific issues for investigation; and
- notification of any travel that may be necessary for a full investigation.
i. The GAL is released from his or her appointment upon presentation of the report to both attorneys and/or self represented party. The GAL may be retained by written agreement or court order for further GAL services.
B.5 Scope of GAL Authority
a. The GAL shall function as a guardian pursuant to N.C. R. Civ. P., G.S. § 1A-1, Rule 17(b)(3), and shall be subject to all applicable rules of court.
b. The GAL may file a motion requesting appointment of an expert. If such motion is allowed, the expert’s fees shall be paid by the parties. The GAL may, at any time and upon proper notice to the parties, request that the Court review the case.
B.6 GAL Communications
a. Ex Parte communications:
- Communications between the parties and the GAL may be informal and ex parte. Said communications are NOT confidential.
- Communications between the attorneys and GAL may be ex parte.
- There shall be no ex parte communications between the GAL and the Court
b. The GAL may contact or meet with a parent individually without the consent of the parent’s attorney. The GAL may report to the parents what he/she believes to be in the child(ren)’s best interest and make suggestions to reduce conflict. A GAL may communicate with one attorney without the express consent of the other attorney.
c. Any communication between the GAL and a court appointed expert appointed pursuant to B.5 of this order must be simultaneously communicated to the parents’ attorneys or self-represented parties, including any written information or documents that the child(ren)’s GAL might provide to said expert.
d. The GAL may, in his or her discretion, communicate with any person or professional involved with the child(ren) or the family, including but not limited to school, medical, dental, or psychological providers, or social service information.
e. The GAL shall not serve as a Parenting Coordinator.
B.7 Recommendations and Written Reports by GAL
a. Should the GAL determine that he or she is not qualified to address certain issues in the case, he/she shall promptly provide written notification to the Court, parties and attorneys.
b. The GAL shall submit a written report to the attorneys or self represented parties within 90 days of beginning work (receipt of full payment and entry and receipt of the appointment order), unless good cause is shown for additional time. This report shall be admissible at hearing or trial without authentication or requiring the presence of the GAL. Such admissibility is not a waiver of the right to object to the report in part or total.
c. If a Parenting Coordinator and/or custody evaluator has been appointed, the GAL shall submit his/her report to the custody evaluator or Parenting Coordinator at the same time as the report is published to attorneys and/or self represented parties.
d. At various points in the case, the GAL may make recommendations to parents and their attorneys concerning the child(ren)’s best interest, and he/she may inform the Court of their position and recommendations at trial.
e. Any written report or recommendation should be submitted to the attorneys or self represented parties 2 weeks prior to hearing, if a court date has been calendared.
f. The GAL shall disclose all sources of information reported.
g. No report shall be submitted to the Court prior to hearing without the consent of attorneys or self represented parties.
B.8 GAL Testimony
The GAL may testify at trial or deposition by consent. Absent consent of the GAL, a party may subpoena the GAL to appear and testify. The GAL shall require prepayment from the subpoenaing party as a condition of his/her appearance under subpoena.
Any grievances against a GAL shall be submitted to the Chief District Court Judge for consideration. The Chief District Court Judge, in his or her discretion, may consult with the Center for Cooperative Parenting regarding any grievances.
B.10 Child(ren) as Witnesses
The Court ordinarily discourages parents from requiring the minor child(ren) to testify. If testimony is to be elicited from a minor child(ren) at a court proceeding, the GAL may advocate for using an alternative procedure to in court testimony, such as an in chambers interview, closed circuit television, or one-way mirror with an audio connection.
The GAL may request that an in chambers interview be conducted with only the child(ren), the Court, and the GAL present. The Court may exclude parents from the interview, although parents’ attorneys have the right to be present. If the parents’ attorneys consent to an in chambers interview that excludes attorneys as well as parents, they may submit questions for the Court to ask the child(ren).
B.11 Civil District Guardians ad Litem serve at the order of the Court. They are NOT statutorily protected in the State of North Carolina at this time.
View the North Carolina Statute: Click Here