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Guardian ad Litem (GALs) in Child Protection Cases
The court must appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) in all child protection cases.
Who may be appointed to be a GAL in child protection cases?
The GAL must be either a licensed Maine attorney or a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA GAL).
Duties of the GAL
Maine law and the Rules for GALs establish the duties of the GAL in child protection cases. The GAL or CASA GAL will:
- Meet with and interview the child. GALs should meet with and visit the child at least every three (3) months. CASA GALs should meet every 30 days.
- Investigate. The GAL or CASA GAL should be given access to all reports and records relevant to the case, including mental health records and materials; medical records; school records, and other pertinent materials.
- Interview others. Interviews should include parents, foster parents, teachers, caseworkers, and other persons who have been involved in caring for or treating the child.
- File reports to the court. The GAL or CASA GAL will file reports and other materials necessary and appropriate to the stage of the case to help the court determine the best interest of the child. Copies will be provided to all parties of record.
- Participate in hearings. This includes giving testimony, presenting evidence, and being cross-examined by the parties.
- Protect the child as a witness. The GAL or CASA GAL will advocate for the interest of the child in court hearings when the child is called to testify. This includes special procedures to protect the child witness from unnecessary psychological harm resulting from the child’s testimony.
- Make recommendations to the court. The GAL or CASA GAL may make recommendations to the court in order to get access to appropriate services for the child, and to put a service plan in place.
- Help develop services. The GAL or CASA GAL may advocate for appropriate services, including by a written request (motion) filed with the court.
How is the GAL paid in child protection cases?
The GAL is either a volunteer CASA GAL, or a rostered attorney GAL paid by the State.
What if I disagree with the GAL’s report or recommendations in a child protection case?
If, as a parent, you disagree with the GAL’s or CASA GAL’s report or recommendations, you or your lawyer have a right to call the GAL or CASA GAL as a witness and question him or her in a court hearing.
If you think the GAL or CASA GAL was biased in favor of the other parent or the Department of Health and Human Services, you or your lawyer can ask the GAL or CASA GAL questions that might show this bias to the court.
Making a complaint about the GAL
If you have a serious concern about misconduct, bias, or other action of the GAL or CASA GAL, see the Making a Complaint about a Guardian ad Litem page.