A new ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court has removed attorney-client privilege previously existing in that state between guardians ad litem and the children they represent. In so ruling, the court found that the role of the guardian ad litem (“GAL”) is to assist the court in acting in the best interests of the child even if the child objects to the GAL releasing information. As noted in the ABA Journal and the Denver Post, this has created substantial controvery, that may seem odd to family law practitioners in Minnesota.
Colorado differs from Minnesota in how it structures its guardian ad litem program. In Colorado, the GAL is an attorney appointed to represent the child and advocate for his or her best interests. In Minnesota, the GAL need not be an attorney and represents the best interests of the child even when contrary to the child’s wishes. Minnesota GALs can even seek appointment of counsel to represent them in a case.
Minnesota GALs are explicitly not attorneys for the children whose best interests they represent and do not provide such children with legal advice. Children involved in a court proceeding may be represented by separate attorneys who advocate for the children’s wishes. Organizations such as the Children’s Law Center, provide pro bono representation to children in foster care.