The TBA Young Lawyers Division has created an online toolkit to encourage anyone to become a Guardian Ad Litem.  The Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) toolkit offers you the mission and tools needed to serve underrepresented children as a Guardian ad Litem in Juvenile Court.  Our goal is to offer content to allow you to serve the as a GAL, regardless of practice area.  Currently, the content available contemplates Guardian ad Litem work only in the context of Juvenile Court, or specifically in dependency and neglect actions.

“[A] lawyer appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child and to ensure that the child’s concerns and preferences are effectively advocated.”

Rule 40(b)(1) of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules

In Juvenile Court, a Guardian ad Litem, an attorney, is appointed to represent the best interests of a child or children in cases where the child or children is alleged to be dependent and neglect.

A child is entitled to representation by legal counsel at all stages of any delinquency proceedings or proceedings alleging unruly conduct that place the child in jeopardy of being removed from the home pursuant to § 37-1-132(b) and is entitled to a guardian ad litem for proceedings alleging a child to be dependent and neglected or abused.  T.C.A. § 37-1-126(a)(1).  

A guardian ad litem is an attorney, not a witness.  The guardian shall present the results of her investigation and conclusions in the same manner as the other attorneys, by calling, examining, and cross-examining witnesses, submitting and responding to evidence, and making oral and written arguments based on the evidence that has been or is expected to be presented.  TSC Rule 40(f). 

Rule 40(c) sets forth three general guidelines for a Guardian ad Litem:

The child, not the Court, is your client. Rule 40 (c)(1).
Establishing and maintaining a relationship with the child is fundamental to representation.  The age and development of the child dictate the type and frequency of communication.  Rule 40(c)(2).
The guardian ad litem shall represent the child at preliminary, adjudicatory, dispositional and post-dispositional hearings, including the permanency plan staffings, court reviews, foster care review board hearings and permanency hearings, and shall continue to do so until relieved by the court.  Rule 40(c)(3).

 More information on how to become a Guardian Ad Litem