What is a Guardian ad Litem (GAL)?

A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is someone who is responsible for the conduct of legal proceedings for a person, where that person is:

  • incapable of representing him or herself,
  • incapable of giving proper instructions to his or her legal representative, and/or
  • under legal incapacity due to age, mental illness or incapacity, disability or other special circumstances in relation to the conduct of the proceedings.

For more information on capacity please refer to the Capacity Toolkit. The Capacity Toolkit assists in deciding if a person has capacity and provides options for various levels of capacity.

A GAL may also be referred to as a tutor or special representative.

The role of a GAL is to protect or promote the interests of the person in relation to whom they have been appointed (the client). In many cases a GAL is appointed by the Court or Tribunal in which the proceedings are being conducted.

Court and Tribunal Ordered Appointments

The Office of the General Counsel, Department of Justice has established a panel of people eligible for appointment as a GAL in particular proceedings pursuant to an order of a Court or Tribunal. The GAL Panel was first developed to provide GALs for Children's Court matters.

Children's Court Proceedings

Currently, the majority of Court ordered appointments are for the Children's Court, in a variety of locations across the State.

Section 100 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection Act) 1998 (the Act) enables the Children's Court to appoint a GAL for a child or young person when there are special circumstances to warrant the appointment and the child or young person will benefit from the appointment.

Section 101 of the Act enables the Children's Court to appoint a GAL for the parent of a child or young person if it is of the opinion that the parent is incapable of giving proper instructions to his/her legal representative.

A GAL may be appointed where a child, young person or parent has an intellectual disability or mental illness.

Other Proceedings

GAL Panel members may also be appointed to other Courts and Tribunals in New South Wales. GALs are regularly appointed in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT), and have been appointed in proceedings in the Supreme Court and District Court.

Responsibilities

A GAL is responsible and authorised to make decisions in the best interests of the client only in relation to the legal proceedings in which he/she has been appointed.

A GAL when making decisions shall:

  • promote the autonomy of the client;
  • safeguard and represent the interests of the client;
  • take into account views, opinions, wishes and feelings as expressed by the client; and/or
  • take into consideration any other special circumstances.