What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
Often times in highly adversarial custody cases or in custody cases where the child and/or the parents have special circumstances, the Court will appoint an attorney specifically for the child. This attorney represents the child before the Court. Costs for the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) are sometimes shared by the parents or often times one parent is saddled with the majority of the costs. GAL's are somewhat controversial and their roles are typically misunderstood.
Here's the law with respect to Guardian Ad Litems:
32A-1-7 NMSA 1978 Guardian ad litem; powers and duties.
A. A guardian ad litem shall zealously represent the child's best interests in the proceeding for which the guardian ad litem has been appointed and in any subsequent appeals.
B. Unless excused by a court, a guardian ad litem appointed to represent a child's best interests shall continue the representation in any subsequent appeals.
C. Any party may petition the court for an order to remove a guardian ad litem on the grounds that the guardian ad litem has a conflict of interest or is unwilling or unable to zealously represent the child's best interests.
D. After consultation with the child, a guardian ad litem shall convey the child's declared position to the court at every hearing.
E. Unless a child's circumstances render the following duties and responsibilities unreasonable, a guardian ad litem shall:
(1) meet with and interview the child prior to custody hearings, adjudicatory hearings, dispositional hearings, judicial reviews and any other hearings scheduled in accordance with the provisions of the Children's Code;
(2) communicate with health care, mental health care and other professionals involved with the child's case;
(3) review medical and psychological reports relating to the child and the respondents;
(4) contact the child prior to any proposed change in the child's placement;
(5) contact the child after changes in the child's placement;
(6) attend local substitute care review board hearings concerning the child and if unable to attend the hearings, forward to the board a letter setting forth the child's status during the period since the last local substitute care review board review and include an assessment of the department's permanency and treatment plans;
(7) report to the court on the child's adjustment to placement, the department's and respondent's compliance with prior court orders and treatment plans and the child's degree of participation during visitations; and
(8) represent and protect the cultural needs of the child.
F. A guardian ad litem may retain separate counsel to represent the child in a tort action on a contingency fee basis or any other cause of action in proceedings that are outside the jurisdiction of the children's court. When a guardian ad litem retains separate counsel to represent the child, the guardian ad litem shall provide the court with written notice within ten days of retaining the separate counsel. A guardian ad litem shall not retain or subsequently obtain any pecuniary interest in an action filed on behalf of the child outside of the jurisdiction of the children's court.
G. In the event of a change of venue, the originating guardian ad litem shall remain on the case until a new guardian ad litem is appointed by the court in the new venue and the new guardian ad litem has communicated with and received all pertinent information from the former guardian ad litem.
H. A guardian ad litem shall receive notices, pleadings or other documents required to be provided to or served upon a party. A guardian ad litem may file motions and other pleadings and take other actions consistent with the guardian ad litem's powers and duties.
I. A guardian ad litem shall not serve concurrently as both the child's delinquency attorney and guardian ad litem.
Disclaimer: These codes may not be the most recent version. New Mexico may have more current or accurate information. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on the state site. Please check official sources.