as provided by Family Support Services
The GAL is a full participant in the Court proceeding and is the only party whose sole duty is to protect the child's needs and interests. The GAL assumes the role of an advocate for the child's interests and in no way represents the petitioner (usually an agency), or the independents (usually the parents or custodians). A GAL is appointed because of the child's immaturity and lack of judgement. Therefore, the GAL stands in the child's shoes and exercises substitute judgments for the child.
In fulfilling this child-centered role, the GAL performs ten important and interrelated duties. The GAL:
- Acts as an independent fact finder (or investigator) whose task it is to review all relevant records and interview the child, parents, social workers, teachers and other persons to ascertain the facts and circumstances of the child's situation.
- Ascertains the interests of the child by taking into account the child's age, maturity, culture and ethnicity including maintaining a trusting meaningful relationship with the child via face-toface contact.
- Seeks cooperative resolutions to the child's situation within the scope of the child's interests and welfare.
- Provides written reports of findings and recommendations to the court at each hearing to assure that all the relevant facts are before the court
- Appears at all hearings to represent the child's interests, providing testimony when required
- Explains the court proceedings to the child in a language and terms that the child can understand.
- Asks that clear and specific orders are entered for the evaluation, assessment, services and treatment of the child and child's family.
- Monitors implementation of service plans and disposition orders to determine whether services ordered by the court are actually provided, are provided in a timely manner, and are accomplishing their desired goal.
- Informs the court promptly in writing or orally if the services are not being made available to the child and/or families, if the family fails to take advantage of such services, or if such services are not achieving their purpose and brings to the court's attention any violation of orders, new developments or changes.
- Advocates for the child's best interests in mental health, educational, family court, juvenile justice, criminal justice, and other community systems.
There are several laws governing GALs and their duties, as well as determining the "best interests" of the child. AngelGroup will be posting these soon for your convenience.
GALs are also assigned to adults with disabilities and/or incapacitated adults. AngelGroup will be posting the guidelines for this in the near future.
NOTE: There are MANY cases in Hawaii where the Guardian ad Litem(s) are given the ability to determine custody, as delegated by the judge. This is illegal.
“This court has previously held that the family court is not authorized by statute or otherwise to delegate its decision-making authority to the guardian ad litem and when the family court orders that one parent shall have only supervised visitation with a child, it must be as specific as is reasonably possible regarding the details such as the supervisor, the place, the day and the time. RE: Bencomo v. Bencomo, 112 Hawaii 511, 516, 147 p.3d 67, 73 (App. 2006).
In addition, MANY children in Hawaii "of sufficient age and reason" who are not given voice via their GAL , as mandated by law. Many GALs also believe they are the "attorney" for the Child but this is a completely separate position which is allowed under Hawaii law.
Guardians ad Litem in Private Custody Litigation: The Case for Abolition
by Attorney Richard Ductote