Guardians ad Litem FAQ
- What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A Guardian ad Litem (hereinafter, "GAL") is a person appointed to represent the best interests of one or more children in legal proceedings for divorce, determination of parental rights and responsibilities, child protection and similar legal actions in Maine. The Guardian will make recommendations regarding the child's best interests to the Judge hearing the case. However, the Judge hearing the case will make independent decisions on all issues regarding the child or children.
There are two ways to become eligible for appointment as a Guardian ad litem in Maine's courts:
- The Chief Judge of the Maine District Court maintains a roster of individuals approved to serve as a GAL in Maine's courts. Unless rostered, an individual is not authorized to be appointed to serve as a GAL in an individual case.
Individual GAL case appointments are made, however, by the presiding Judge or Family Law Magistrate by written court order setting forth the GAL's rights and responsibilities.
- Maine's Court Appointed Special Advocate program (hereinafter, "CASA") maintains a list of volunteers who are eligible for appointment only in Title 22 child protection cases on a volunteer basis.
How do I file a complaint against a Guardian?
If you are concerned that the GAL is not representing your child's best interest, you can always speak with the GAL directly to discuss your concerns. If you are not comfortable speaking with the GAL, you may file a complaint.
Complaints about the performance of a Guardian in a pending case are to be directed by motion or written letter to the judge who appointed the Guardian or to the judge who is conducting hearings in the case. You must also send a copy to the Guardian or any other party to the case. The Chief Judge will not take any action with respect to, or initiate a review with respect to, a complaint arising from a pending case.
If a case is no longer pending, complaints about the performance of a Guardian may be filed, with copies to the Guardian and any other parties, with the Chief Judge of the District Court at:
Office of the Chief Judge
of the District Court
163 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0163
Who is eligible to be considered for placement on the Guardian ad Litem roster?
There are four categories of people eligible to be considered for placement on the GAL roster:
An attorney holding a current valid license to practice law in Maine. You must submit a completed application to the Chief Judge to obtain permission to attend the CORE entry level training.
A mental health professional holding a current valid license to practice as an LSW, LCSW, LCPC, LMSW, LPC, LMFT, psychologist, or psychiatrist in Maine. You must submit a completed application to the Chief Judge to obtain permission to attend the entry level CORE training.
A person for whom the Chief Judge or the Maine District Court has waived licensure for qualification requirements. The Chief Judge will only waive the requirements for those individuals who successfully demonstrate that their education, experience and character enable them to live up to the "Standards of Practice for Guardians ad litem in Maine Courts." Individuals who hope to be rostered under this category are encouraged to submit a completed application well in advance of the CORE training program so that they will know in advance whether they will be eligible to enroll in the training and apply for rostering after completing the training. The application must be accompanied by a letter detailing the applicant's professional experience and documenting the applicant's proposed justification for waiver of the licensing requirement. Failure to provide sufficient information and/or justification will result in denial of the application.
A person who satisfies A, B or C above is eligible to be rostered only after successful completion of the CORE training requirements of the Maine Rules for Guardians ad litem (hereinafter "Maine GAL Rules"). In addition, all applicants must be approved by the Chief Judge following a background check consisting of a criminal history information check, motor vehicle record, screening for child abuse cases and any other investigations deemed appropriate by the Chief Judge.
- What is the "Core Training" requirement?
The GAL Rules require that applicants attend a Guardian training with a curriculum of at least 16 hours that has been approved by the Chief Judge. The curriculum must include specified learning outcomes and activities designed to meet these outcomes, and must cover: Titles 19-A and 22; dynamics of divorce and its effect on children; child development; dynamics of domestic abuse and its effect on children; the effects of abuse, neglect and trauma on children; substance abuse; legal issues and processes; the duties and obligations of the Guardian as an agent of the court; and interviewing techniques.
The Family Division/Administrative Office of the Courts sponsors a bi-annual training program which satisfies the requirements for the CORE training. The program is generally held in the fall. Information regarding the next training is available by writing to the Administrative Office of the Courts: Family Division, 171 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0171 or emailing Kirsten Skorpen at Kirsten.F.Skorpen@courts.maine.gov. Individuals who complete the CORE training program receive a certificate of completion. Completion of the training does not automatically result in being added to the GAL roster. A person is only added to the roster after he or she has submitted a written application, attended the CORE training AND applied to the Chief Judge of the District Court for final approval and rostering. The CORE training requirement is not required for individuals serving as GALs under the auspices of the CASA program, which sponsors its own four-day training conference several times per year. Certification as a CASA alone is not sufficient to be placed on the Title 19-A and/or Title 22 rosters. CASA-certified volunteer guardians ad litem may serve only as volunteer guardians in Title 22 cases, and only under CASA supervision.
Is there a Continuing Education Requirement?
A Guardian shall attend and complete any continuing professional education events or seminars designated as mandatory by the Chief Judge. In addition, in each 12-month period beginning July 1, 2001, a Guardian must annually participate in a total of at least 6 hours of continuing professional education programs applicable to one or more of the following: Titles 19-A and 22; dynamics of domestic abuse and its effect on children; dynamics of divorce and its effect on children; child development; the effects of abuse, neglect and/or trauma on children; substance abuse; legal issues and processes; the duties and obligations of the Guardian as an agent of the court; and interviewing techniques.
All rostered GALs must annually demonstrate fulfillment of the specified training hours requirement must by completing a statement, on a continuing education form approved by the Chief Judge. The completed form must be submitted to the Family Division, 171 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0171, by June 30 each and every year. This form can be found annually on the Court?s website. Failure to comply with this requirement will result in loss of rostering status, and the GAL will be removed from the roster and prohibited from taking GAL appointments.
- Are persons listed on the GAL roster guaranteed that they will receive appointments as a GAL in individual cases?
No. Being listed on the GAL roster is no guarantee that an individual will be asked to serve as a GAL in cases. GALs are appointed at the individual discretion of the presiding Judge or Family Law Magistrate making the appointment. Rostering merely qualifies a person to be considered for appointment in cases, but in no way assures that an individual will or entitles that individual to?receive appointments.
Volunteers who have been accepted into the Maine CASA program will be appointed, on a volunteer basis, to at least one Title 22 child protection case.
Are persons listed on the GAL roster authorized to serve in both Title 19-A and Title 22 cases, or are they restricted to Title 19-A or Title 22 cases?
Some rostered GALs are authorized to serve in both Title 19-A and Title 22 cases. Some are authorized to only serve in Title 19-A cases. The roster designates the extent of each individual's authorization based upon the following guidelines:
- Attorneys licensed to practice law in Maine and attended all four days of training, including training on Title 22, are rostered to serve as GALs in both Title 19-A and Title 22 cases.
- Mental health professionals licensed in Maine and unlicensed individuals otherwise approved by the Chief Judge are rostered to serve as GALs in Title 19-A cases, but not Title 22 cases.
- CASA volunteers may only serve as GALs in Title 22 and only as volunteers under the supervision of Maine CASA.
- GALs rostered for only Title 19-A cases shall not accept appointments in Title 22 cases.
What steps should you take to become rostered as a GAL in Maine?
Step 1: Complete and submit an application to the Administrative Office of the Courts, Family Division, 171 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0171.? The application can be found on the Judicial Branch website at: http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/family/gal/info.html
Step 2: ?Upon application approval by the Chief Judge, register for and complete the CORE training program.
Step 3: Upon successful completion of the CORE entry level training, submit a written request to the Chief Judge for rostering status.
The Chief Judge's office will notify you as to whether additional information is required and whether your application has been approved. Please do not contact the Chief Judge's office to check on the status of your application.
- Must individuals who wish to volunteer to serve as a GAL as part of Maine's CASA program be rostered by the Chief Judge of the Maine District Court?
No. CASA volunteers are not required to be rostered by the Chief Judge of the Maine District Court and are not required to complete the core training program. CASA volunteers receive separate training from the CASA program. Certified CASA volunteers may take appointments only as volunteer guardians in Title 22 cases, and only under the supervision of Maine CASA. For more information about the Maine CASA program, call 287-5403, or download an application at http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/family/casa/index.shtml.
- Where can you get additional information?
Any person interested in serving as a GAL is required to read the Maine Rules for Guardians ad Litem and the Standards of Practice for Guardians ad Litem in Maine. Copies of the Rules and Standards are published in the Maine Rules of Court published by West Group which is available in most county law libraries, some public libraries and on line at the Guardian ad litem section of the Court Services and Resources web site - http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/family/gal/index.html.
Interested persons are also strongly encouraged to contact a person currently serving as a GAL in Maine. The names of persons rostered as GALs are available from the Clerk's office at each of Maine's District Courts or on the Judicial Branch website in the section regarding GALs - http://www.courts.state.me.us/maine_courts/family/gal/roster.html.
Further information about the CORE training program is available by writing to the Administrative Office of the Courts - Family Division, 171 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0171, or by calling Kirsten Skorpen at 287-7626 or emailing her at Kirsten.F.Skorpen@courts.maine.gov.