Q. What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A. A Guardian ad Litem is a trained volunteer who is appointed by the court to advocate for the best
interests of an abused or neglected child. In court, the GAL serves as an important voice for the child.
Q. Who can be a Guardian ad Litem?
A. Guardian ad Litem volunteers come from all walks of life and have a variety of professional, educational
and ethnic backgrounds. No special education or experience is required.
Q. How will I know what to do?
A. The GAL offices across the state use a nationally-recognized training program. You will learn all
about the court system and your role in it so that you can be confident when you take your first case.
Q. Is being a Guardian ad Litem dangerous?
A. We would never ask you to do anything or go anywhere that makes you feel unsafe. You can take a social
worker, another GAL staff member, or a police officer on a home visit if you need to. You can also arrange meetings in public
places, such as restaurants or a DSS office.
Q. I work full time. Can I still be a Guardian ad Litem?
A. Many of our volunteers have full-time jobs. Much of the work can be done on the weekend, in the evening,
or on the telephone. You would need your employer's permission to take off work when you have a court date (every three to
six months, depending on the case).
Q. What is the time commitment for a Guardian ad Litem?
A. The initial training program takes 25-30 hours to complete, usually in the evenings or on weekends.
After you are assigned a case, you will spend 10-15 hours per month interviewing parties, reviewing reports, attending court
(if scheduled that month), and visiting with the child. The time commitment varies from case to case.
Q. How many cases do I have to take?
A. We have no minimum number of cases for volunteers. Each GAL volunteer accepts only as many cases
as he/she has time to handle.
Q. Would I be liable for my work?
A. The North Carolina General Statutes shield volunteers from liability: "Any volunteer participating
in a judicial proceeding....shall not be civillly liable for acts or omissions committed in connection with the proceeding
if he/she acted in good faith and was not guilty of gross negligence." N.C.G.S. 7A-493
Q. How is a Guardian ad Litem different from a social worker?
A. The social worker represents the Department of Social Services (DSS), which has legal custody of
the child or children involved. DSS is concerned with ensuring the safety of the child(ren), and is charged with finding a
permanent caregiver for the child, whether it is the parent(s), other relatives, foster care, adoption, or some other safe
placement. As a Guardian ad Litem, you focus entirely on the child, advocating for special services, investigating community
resources, and being the child's voice in court.
Q. Will I have to testify in court?
A. It is a possibility. Most of the time, the people who will be called to testify are those with first-hand
knowledge, such as the social worker or a doctor. If you do have to testify, the Attorney Advocate and the GAL staff will
prepare you thoroughly.
Q. I worry that the parents will resent me and be uncooperative.
A. It comes as a surprise to many people that the parents are usually more than glad to offer their
version of the events that have caused this case to come before the court. As a GAL, you are just asking questions and
listening at the outset, and most parents do not find this threatening.
Q. May I take the child to a museum or a ball game?
A. No. Your role is not to provide direct services, but to investigate and observe, and to be an
advocate. That in itself is an important gift to the child, but requires good judgement, objectivity, and a clear understanding
of your role. For this reason, you also must not give significant gifts to the child.