Frequently Asked Questions
- What is guardian ad litem?
The term "guardian ad litem" ("GAL") is generally understood to refer to a person appointed by a court to represent the best interest of an individual (usually a child or incompetent adult) in any proceeding where a court deems it necessary to appoint such a person. The term "ad litem" means "for the purposes of the proceeding" and the nature of GAL's activity may vary from case to case. Generally a GAL performs those functions deemed necessary under the terms of as particular court's appointment. The appointment might, for example, include a requirement that a GAL make recommendations to the court about what is in the best interest of a recipient of services. A GAL is not appointed to serve as a person's overall attorney for all purposes and not all GALs are lawyers. Similarly a GAL is not a general "guardian" appointed to handle the affiars of another.
- What is a certified guardian ad litem?
"Certified guardian ad litem" means any person who has completed the New Hampshire guardian ad litem training program and who has been approved by the board. "Certification" means going through the process that includes, among other things, an application, a screening process, training and approval by the board.
- How was GAL board established?
In 1999 legislation was passed creating a committee to study the issues regarding the procedures and standards for selection and supervision of court appointed guardians ad litem. The final report from this committee recommended establishing a free standing board to oversee the credentialing, activities, and discipline of guardians ad litem appointed in New Hampshire. In 2000 legislation was passed which created this board. The statute was revised in 2002, 2004 and 2006 to clarify the duties and authority of the board.
- What are the qualifications required to become a certified GAL?
The general qualifications for certification can be found in Chapter 300 of the Board’s administrative rules. Please also see the Board’s “Application Materials”.
- What is the certification process
A general explanation can be found in the Board’s “Application Materials”
- How and when do I renew my GAL certification?
Under normal circumstances, requests for renewals of certification must be submitted in the 90 day period prior to the date of expiration of certification. A general explanation of the process is found in the Board’s “Renewal, Reinstatement and Recertification Materials”.
- What are the Board’s continuing education requirements?
As a general matter, GALs who hold a current certification that they wish to renew must have completed 30 continuing education credits within the period of certification that is expiring. Items qualifying for continuing education credit are addressed in Part Gal 403. Persons seeking recertification within 90 days after their certification has expired must complete 30 continuing education credits within the 3-year period before making the request for recertification, must submit specific documentation of the completion of the continuing education and must submit a written statement of the reasons for failing to request renewal prior to the expiration of certification. The fee for recertification is also higher than the normal fee for timely renewals. Persons seeking recertification more than 90 days after expiration must, among other things, again take the general and area-specific training that is required for initial certification. Other continuing education requirements apply in particular contexts. The specific continuing education requirements are described in Chapter 400 of the Board’s administrative rules. Please also see the Board’s “Continuing Education Materials”.
- How do I file a complaint against a certified GAL?
The complaint process begins with the completion of a written complaint form. The process is generally described in the Board’s “Complaint Materials”. The fee for the filing of a complaint is $100.
- What “Ethical Standards and Standards of Practice” apply to certified GALs?
The “Ethical Standards and Standards of Practice” applicable to certified GALs and formerly certified GALs who performed actions which may have been prohibited when certified are found in Chapter 500 of the Board’s administrative rules.
- Can the Board change the result of a case in which a certified GAL was appointed, appoint or remove a particular GAL in a case or provide advice about how I should proceed in a case?
No. The Board is an executive branch agency, the functions of which include, but are not limited to, the certification, and if necessary the disciplining, of certified and certain formerly certified GALs. The Board does not have the power to change the result in a particular case in which a GAL served. Determining the outcome of cases is a function of the judicial branch (the court). Appointment and removal of GALs are likewise matters that are within the institutional authority of the judiciary. A person seeking to reverse, modify or otherwise challenge court orders must do so through the court. The Board is not able to provide legal advice regarding proceedings in a case.
- Can the Board intervene in a billing dispute with a GAL?
The Board does not set the fees, or the apportionment of fees, in particular cases and is not able to provide legal advice regarding how to proceed in a particular dispute with a GAL. Some of the Board’s “Ethical Standards and Standards of Practice”, however, deal with fees and the handling of accounts. If the practices of a GAL in regard to billing or accounts are believed to violate the “Ethical Standards and Standards of Practice” found in the Board’s rules, a person may consider whether he or she wishes to file a formal complaint with the Board.
- What action will the Board take in a case that is ongoing?
The Board does not generally accept complaints that relate to ongoing cases. The statute under which the Board was established, RSA 490-C
provides in part that a “. . . complaint relating to a trial or judicial proceeding in progress shall be dismissed without prejudice, unless the board for good cause votes to proceed immediately with such complaint.” RSA 490-C: 4, I (g).
- Can the Board refer a complaint to a court for resolution?
Yes. The statute under which the Board was established, RSA 490-C provides in part that the Board “. . . may, upon the submission of a written allegation or complaint against a presently or formerly certified guardian ad litem who holds, held, or may hold an appointment in a case under the authority of a court, refer that matter to the appropriate court for investigation, resolution, or other action. Such referral may be made regardless of whether the allegation or complaint relates to a case which is then pending in court and may be made in lieu of or in addition to any investigatory or disciplinary procedures that the board may itself be authorized to pursue. The board may further informally resolve complaints by agreement. A complaint relating to a trial or judicial proceeding in progress shall be dismissed without prejudice, unless the board for good cause votes to proceed immediately with such complaint.” RSA 490-C: 4, I (g).
The foregoing information is simply intended as a convenient synopsis of some of the matters in which the Board is involved. It is not a verbatim recitation of all applicable rules and statutes. Statutory and rules provisions themselves (together with applicable judicial opinions and rulings), rather than any synopsis of those rules and statutes, control the Board’s operations. Those interested or involved in matters involving the Board should consult the specific laws and administrative rules at issue.
Below are links of other guardian ad litem related websites.Please note that some of these links may be to websites other than New Hampshire state government.
- CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)