Guardian Ad Litem is pivotal in protecting the rights and interests of minors involved in civil action and settlements. Their appointment safeguards against potential exploitation or neglect of minors during legal proceedings.
Before you go through the legal process with an injured child, you should understand all your legal options and the importance of a Guardian Ad Litem.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
Guardian Ad Litem, often known as GAL, is a court-appointed individual who acts as a minor’s legal representative in a civil case. Their main job is to advocate for the child’s best interest throughout the legal process. They’re a neutral third party that can focus on the child and prevent them from exploitation by other plaintiffs, defendants, and their legal teams.
A GAL is typically appointed in cases where a minor is involved in a lawsuit, either as a plaintiff or defendant. This includes personal injury claims, custody disputes, and other legal matters where a minor’s rights are at stake.
While parents and other family members are frequently permitted to act as a guardian ad litem for an injured child, California law specifically requires that children have an attorney to handle case documentation and advocate for their interests during the approval procedure. It’s important to note that a guardian ad litem is not allowed to represent the child’s interests in a monetary settlement without legal representation. Such an action would be deemed an unlawful practice of law.
Guardian Ad Litem vs. Attorney for the Minor
A Guardian Ad Litem is different from the injury attorney who represents the minor. While both serve the minor’s interests, the GAL focuses on the child’s overall well-being and best interests, whereas an attorney provides legal counsel. They can work together to protect the child and their future after an accident or custody dispute.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Guardian Ad Litem
GAL’s primary role is to fight for the minor’s rights and needs through all legal proceedings and disputes.
The responsibilities of a guardian ad litem can differ based on the nature of the personal injury claim and the age of the child involved. Typically, individuals serving as a guardian ad litem will have the following duties:
- Collaborating with the attorney to assess the case
- Assisting the attorney in preparing the case as required
- Making decisions regarding potential settlements
- Providing the child with age-appropriate updates about the case
- Determining how settlement funds will be invested on behalf of the minor
Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of the Minor
When a minor is involved in a civil action, the Guardian Ad Litem will work diligently to protect them through the legal process. They may even initiate legal proceedings on behalf of the minor. This may include drafting legal documents, filing a lawsuit, and ensuring all necessary paperwork is completed accurately. They’ll work closely with the minor’s legal team to do this.
Legal proceedings can be complex and intimidating, especially for minors. The Guardian Ad Litem will explain the process to children in an age-appropriate manner. They’ll even prepare minors for court appearances, hearings, and trials.
When a civil action results in a settlement negotiation, the GAL will review all proposed settlement terms to assess their fairness to the minor. This review includes evaluating the financial compensation, terms of custody agreements, or any other aspects of the settlement that may impact the minor’s well-being.
The Guardian Ad Litem’s involvement in settlement approval is crucial in preventing any potential exploitation or unfair treatment of minors.
Challenges Faced by Guardian Ad Litems
Guardian Ad Litems encounter several challenges in their role. These may include navigating complex legal procedures, managing emotional situations involving minors, and balancing the interests of various parties involved.
The emotional well-being of minors is paramount in GAL cases, but managing the emotions of both the minor and others involved can be challenging. GALs often work with minors experiencing trauma, anxiety, or fear. They must also navigate situations where the minor’s emotional needs may conflict with the best legal strategy for them.
The primary duty of the GAL is to represent the child’s best interests, even if those interests conflict with the desires of other parties, such as parents, guardians, or other legal advisors. This can be challenging for many Guardian Ad Litems and create tense environments.
How is a Guardian Ad Litem Appointed?
A Guardian Ad Litem is appointed by the court, often upon request from one of the parties involved in the case. Guardian Ad Litems are appointed case-by-case, depending on the circumstances and the need to protect the minor’s interests.
Qualifications may vary by jurisdiction, but individuals appointed as GALs often have backgrounds in law, social work, or child advocacy.
Contact Our San Bernardino Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If your child suffered an injury in an accident, call a San Bernardino personal injury attorney today at William D. Shapiro Law, Inc. We will work tirelessly to help you secure the compensation your family needs – and deserves.
Our personal injury lawyers would like to meet with you for a free initial consultation and review. We can answer your questions and give you legal guidance during this meeting. Call (909) 890-1000 or complete our confidential contact form today.
This article is intended to be a general overview, not a complete statement of the law applicable to all situations. As the facts of each case are different, we urge all to consult an attorney without delay to fully understand what law applies in your case.”