Glossary: G

Guardian ad Litem (GAL)

A person appointed by the court to protect the legal interests of a youth or a person who is determined to be incompetent in various legal proceedings. State law governs the appointment and duties of GALs. In many states GALs are lawyers, but this is not always the case. It is the role of the GAL to inform the court of the child’s needs and present any information that is important for the court to make its determination. While the GAL should take the child’s view into account, s/he is not bound by the child’s preferences, and represents to the court what the GAL believes is in the child’s best interest. In states like Pennsylvania, where the GAL must be a lawyer, the GAL must comply with all the rules of professional conduct, including duties related to confidentiality. In Pennsylvania, the GAL must present to the court the child’s wishes as well as what the GAL believes is in the child’s best interest