advance the best interests of the child within the case. 6 In some jurisdictions, the GAL is
required to be an attorney, 7 and in others he or she is not. 8 In some jurisdictions, the GAL is
required to make reports and recommendations to the Court, 9 and in some he or she is not
allowed to do so. 10 Adding to the confusion, roles and duties of child advocates are also
frequently different across legal contexts within the same jurisdiction -- for example, a GAL in a
child protection proceeding, a private custody proceeding, and a criminal matter involving a
child victim all require different roles and duties despite the fact that they have the same title of
In addition to the title of GAL, some courts appoint attorneys in custody matters to represent the
child’s interests, sometimes framed as the child’s “best interests” 12 and sometimes as the child’s
expressed wishes. 13 The titles of GAL and child's attorney are often used interchangeably and
the family . . .”); See also WASH. REV. CODE ANN. § 26. 10.070 (West 2016) (“[t]he court may appoint an attorney to
represent the interests of a minor or dependent child with respect to custody, support, and visitation.”).
6 See Linda D. Elrod, Client-Directed Lawyers for Children: It is the “Right” Thing to Do, 27 PACE L. REV. 869,
7 See, e.g., ALASKA STAT. ANN. § 25. 24.310 (West 2016).
8 See, e.g., S.D. CODIFIED LAWS § 25-4-45.4 (2016).
9 See, e.g., MONT. CODE ANN. § 40-4-205 (West 2015); In re Marriage of Hammill, 732 P.2d 403, 405 (Mont.
1987); Jacobsen v. Thomas, 100 P.3d 106, 107 (Mont. 2004).
10 See, e.g., State ex rel. A.D., 6 P.3d 1137, 1139 (Utah Ct. App. 2000) (guardian ad litems may not be compelled to
testify and may not be called as expert witnesses based on fulfilling statutory duties to make best interests
11 See, e.g., 705 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 405/2-17 (West 2013) (role of GAL in neglect cases); See also 705 ILL.
COMP. STAT. ANN. 405/4-16 (West 2013) (role of GAL for child victims); 750 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/506(a)( 1)
(West 2016)(role of GAL in child custody cases). See also 705 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 405/5-610 (West 1999)
(GAL appointed whenever there is a conflict between parent(s) and child).
12 See Roussel v. State, 274 A.2d 909, 925-26 (Me. 1971) (The best interest of the child standard has been largely
influenced by the common law doctrine of parens patriae, which holds that the state has the right and duty to control
the custody of a minor child as it deems appropriate for the child’s welfare, once the child has become a subject of
the jurisdiction of a court).
13 See Ziehm v. Ziehm, 433 A.2d 725, 728 (Me. 1981) (quoting Finlay v. Finlay, 148 N.E. 624, 626 (N. Y. 1925))
(Justice Benjamin Cardozo described the judge’s function under the parens patriae doctrine as “[the trial judge] acts
as parens patriae to do what is best for the interest of the child. He is to put himself in the position of a ‘wise,
affectionate, and careful parent’ and make provision for the child accordingly. … He is not adjudicating a
controversy between adversary parties, to compose their private differences. He is not determining rights ‘as
between a parent and a child’ or as between one parent and another. He “interferes for the protection of
infants, qua infants, by virtue of the prerogative which belongs to the [state] as parens patriae.”).