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Information for Guardians ad Litem
Who can be a rostered GAL?
Licensed Maine attorneys and certain types of licensed mental health professionals may apply to be on the guardian ad litem (GAL) roster. The roster is used by the District Court and the Probate Court to appoint GALs in certain kinds of family and probate cases.
In what kinds of cases do rostered GALs work?
Rostered GALs may be appointed in:
- Certain divorce, parental rights and responsibilities (unmarried parents), and grandparent visitation cases (sometimes referred to as "Title 19-A" cases). The court may appoint a guardian ad litem for a minor child in a contested case when the court has special concerns about the child's welfare.
- Guardianship cases (sometimes referred to as "Title 18-C" cases). Some guardianship cases involving children are heard in Maine's 16 county Probate Courts. However, if a child protection or other case involving the child is pending or filed in District Court, guardianship cases filed in Probate Court must be transferred to the District Court. See the Adoption, Guardianship & Name Case page.
- Rostered GAL attorneys may also be appointed in child protection cases (sometimes referred to as "Title 22" cases).
How to apply to become a rostered GAL
- Complete the Maine Guardian ad Litem Roster Application including:
- A criminal history background check;
- A child protection background check by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services;
- For attorney applicants, a certificate of good standing, including a disciplinary history letter;
- For non-attorney professionals, an original certificate of good standing from the licensing agency for your profession including a disclosure of any complaints or disciplinary action taken by the agency that involves you; and
- Designation of one or more District Court locations where you are willing to accept appointments to serve as a rostered GAL (called your "Home Courts").
- After completing the application, you must be invited to and successfully complete the rostered GAL core training.
- After successfully completing the core training, the Maine State Bar Association will submit your name to the Maine Guardian ad Litem Review Board. The GAL Review Board will send you registration materials.
- After you return the necessary registration materials and registration fee to the GAL Review Board, your name will be added to the GAL roster.
- More information on GAL registration may be found in the Maine Rules for GALs.
Core training for rostered GALs
Family Matters (Title 19-A) or Probate (Title 18-C) cases
The Administrative Office of the Courts, in conjunction with the Maine State Bar Association, provides core training to invited applicants at no cost to the applicant. The training consists of at least 18 hours over a four-day period on the following topics:
- An overview of Titles 18-C, 19-A, and 22 of the Maine Revised Statutes;
- Dynamics of domestic abuse and its effect on children;
- Dynamics of separation and divorce and their effects on children;
- Child development;
- Timing and impact of court-related events from a child's perspective;
- The effects of abuse, neglect and trauma on children;
- Substance abuse;
- Mental health;
- Family finances and the impact of separation and divorce;
- Legal issues and processes;
- Professionalism as a GAL;
- The duties and obligations of the guardian ad litem as an agent of the court; and
- Interviewing techniques.
Child Protection (Title 22) cases
The Administrative Office of the Courts provides a separate core training to invited applicants to qualify them to serve as GALs for child protection cases. This training is usually provided annually and consists of at least 23 hours over a four-day period. The training program includes the same topics as the Title 18-C and 19-A training, as described in the prior section.
Continuing Professional Education Credit
Rostered GALs are required to complete six (6) hours of approved continuing professional education (CPE) annually. Approved topics include one or more of the core training topics above.
In addition, at least one credit hour every year shall be primarily concerned with ethics and professionalism, including:
- Professional responsibility as a GAL;
- Legal ethics related to GAL work;
- Conflicts of interest;
- Diversity awareness;
- Confidentiality of GAL records;
- Communication with parents; and
- Complaint avoidance topics such as file management and billing practices.
Reporting Continuing Professional Education Credits
Rostered GALs are required to provide a report to the Guardian ad Litem Review Board annually describing the course, title, date, location, sponsor, and number of credit hours of all courses taken for credit during the preceding calendar year, or carried over from a prior year. See Rule 10(b) of the Maine Rules for GALs for more information.
Maintaining your rostered GAL status
Once you have been added to the GAL roster, you must:
- Maintain your professional credentials and be able to demonstrate to the Chief Judge of the District Court that you are presently of good character and fitness as outlined by M.R.G.A.L. 2(b)(4);
- Complete the annual registration documents required by M.R.G.A.L. 8 and complete six (6) hours of approved continuing professional education annually; and
- Accept a pro bono or reduced fee case referral from the Maine Judicial Branch every calendar year.
Continuing education credits must be approved by the GAL Review Board and must include one hour of training on ethics and professionalism.
Duties of a rostered GAL
Divorce or Parental Rights and Responsibilities (Title 19-A) cases
The specific scope and duties of a GAL are spelled out in the order appointing the GAL.
If the order is for a "limited purpose," the order will specify the:
- Duties of the GAL;
- Duration of the appointment;
- Maximum hours that may be spent on the case by the GAL;
- Hourly fee rate;
- Maximum fee that may be charged by the GAL; and
- When the fee must be paid and by whom.
If the order is a "standard appointment order," the rostered GAL will:
- Observe the children in the home or homes where they regularly live; and, for children over age 3, interview the child in person;
- Interview each parent and any other adult who lives in the home or homes where the children regularly live; and
- Complete and file a written report of the investigation, findings, and recommendations with the court when the case is set to proceed to a contested hearing, with copies to the parties in the time frame specified by the court.
The order will specify a maximum fee and direct that a specified sum be paid within a set time before the GAL starts the investigation.
If the original or amended appointment order is an "extended appointment order," the court may specify additional duties as required and individually approved by the court. Examples of duties to be performed by the GAL might include:
- Interviewing teachers and others who have knowledge of the child or family;
- Reviewing school, medical, and mental health records; and
- Arranging for counseling for the child, if needed.
Each separate appointment type (limited, standard, or expanded) will address fees and attendance at court appearances.
The complete list of additional duties may be found in the Maine Rules for GALs.
In all family matters cases, the GAL must make the wishes of the child known to the court, if the child has expressed them, regardless of the recommendation of the GAL.
Child Protection (Title 22) cases
The specific scope and duties are spelled out in the order appointing the GAL. Only licensed attorneys and CASA GALs may be appointed in child protection cases.
- Review all mental health, medical, and school records, and other pertinent material;
- Interview and meet with the children every three (3) months;
- Interview parents, foster parents, teachers, caseworkers, and other people who have been involved in caring for or treating the children;
- File a written report with the court at least every six (6) months, as required by the court;
- Recommend appropriate services to the court to protect the children's interests; and
- Attend court hearings in the case as required by the court.
Compliance Reports and Billing Standards
Rule 5 of the Maine Rules for GALs requires that each GAL file a Compliance Report in every case to ensure that the GAL is complying with appointment orders, rules, and statutes. There are separate forms for family matters and child protection cases.
- Compliance Report of the GAL (PC-034) (child protection cases).
- Compliance Report (FM-222) (family matters cases).
Effective January 31, 2018, Rule 5 requires GALs to follow standardized billing procedures in all cases, including:
- The frequency with which bills must be submitted; and
- Itemization of time spent and the specific work done.
Administrative Office of the Courts
Guardian ad Litem Services
1 Court Street, Suite 301
Augusta, ME 04330