In one of our previous blogs posts, we discussed the role of a Pennsylvania Guardian Ad Litem and included information regarding how Pennsylvania law defines the duties associated with this important form of representation. Specifically, PA custody lawpreviously stated that a Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”) had to be a licensed attorney in the state. The GAL’s duty under the law is to represent the best interests of the child in a custody matter. Significant changes have been made to the child custody statute that went into effect on September 3, 2013.
With respect to the role of a GAL , the new child custody statute provides that a GAL does not have to be a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania under the new law – the GAL can be a licensed attorney OR a licensed mental health professional.
Additionally, the law previously stated that the GAL’s role is to represent the best interests AND the legal interests of the child during a PA custody proceeding. Under the new law implemented in September 3, 2013, the GAL’s role is specifically ONLY to represent the best interests of the child. This is a significant change in the law, as now the child will, if necessary, have an attorney representing their legal interests and a GAL representing their best interests.
Previously, a GAL was prevented from testifying under the law. Under the September 3, 2013 law, “[t]he guardian ad litem shall attend all proceedings and be prepared to testify.” Also, the law states that the “Guardian ad litem shall be subject to cross-examination if called to testify by either party or the court.”
Lastly, prior to appointing a GAL under the new law, the court is required to make a finding that the appointment of the GAL is necessary to assist the court in determining the best interests of the child.
Questions about the role of a Guardian Ad Litem under the new Pennsylvania law? Contact our experienced Pittsburgh child custody attorneys today.