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  • Inside Track
    January 16, 2019

    Guardian ad Litem: Gain Insight on Serving Vulnerable Individuals' Best Interests

    Whether you're serving as a guardian ad litem for a child, an elderly person, or an individual with a mental disability, stay up to date on the law and best practices with The Guardian Ad Litem Handbook from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®, now available in a revised edition.

    Jan. 16, 2019 – “Complications caused by ‘best interests’ as client.” “Gaps in training requirements.” “Difficult situations and people.”

    These are just a few of the potentially troublesome issues that could make lawyers “wonder why anyone would aspire to guardian ad litem work.”1

    Despite these challenges, guardians ad litem (GALs) ultimately may find the work appealing for various reasons – the most important of which may be that the courts depend on them to serve some of Wisconsin’s most vulnerable individuals.2

    Learn to handle the ins and outs of GAL work with The Guardian ad Litem Handbook from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®, now available in a revised edition.

    Preparing for an Appointment

    Whatever an attorney’s motivation in pursuing an appointment as a GAL, the decision to accept an appointment entails these key questions:

    What Training Do I Need?
    Special continuing legal education requirements apply, depending on whether the attorney seeks appointment as a GAL for a minor (in a children’s court case or a family court case)3 or for an adult (in a guardianship or protective placement proceeding).4

    How Can I Be Appointed as a GAL?5
    In practice, procedures for appointments may vary among counties and by type of appointment.6 In a family court proceeding, for example, a potential GAL should send to the court a letter expressing the attorney’s qualifications and interest in appointments, but the attorney may need to request to be placed on the specific county’s appointment list.7

    How Am I Compensated as a GAL?
    Although the statutes provide that a GAL is entitled to “reasonable compensation,”8 the payment process varies from county to county … and also depends on the type of case and assets of the parties.9 In any case, in accepting an appointment, the GAL should always confirm who is responsible for payment of fees and at what rate, and the court’s appointment order should clearly set out the compensation system.10

    The Handbook’s overview chapter is reorganized for the 2018-19 edition to address these and other concerns that might commonly arise for an attorney serving as a GAL. Other revised chapters discuss matters relating to specific practice areas.

    Professional Insights, Expanded Content

    The revised edition of the Handbook incorporates numerous developments, including:

    Minor Guardianships
    TheHandbook’s chapter on guardianships, which previously covered only adult guardianships, now also examines the role of the GAL in minor guardianship proceedings under Wis. Stat. chapter 54.11

    Injunctions and Restraining Orders
    To assist GALs who encounter particularly vulnerable wards or proposed wards in need of special protection from abuse, the Handbook contains a new section about injunctions, restraining orders, and criminal prosecutions as possible additional protective measures.12

    Family Care
    As of July 1, 2018, all Wisconsin counties participate in Family Care, Wisconsin’s long-term care program, which operates and funds private managed care organizations. Pertinent discussions in the Handbook have been updated to incorporate this development,13 marking a shift away from previously predominant county-operated programs – a change that one attorney notes “has become the subject of discussion and debate.”14

    The Handbook contains valuable contributions by both attorney and nonattorney authors, who share their expertise involving children, elderly persons, and persons with disabilities: Mary Beth Arnett, Mitch Hagopian, Casey Holtz, James Jansen, Kristin Kerschensteiner, Kate Neugent, Eric Ryberg, Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, Gretchen Viney, and Samantha Wagner.

    How to Order

    The Guardian ad Litem Handbook is available both in print for $179 for members and $229 for nonmembers, and online via Books UnBound®, the State Bar’s interactive online library.

    Subscribers to the State Bar’s automatic supplementation service will receive future updates at a discount off the regular price.

    For more information or to place an order, visit the WisBar Marketplace or call the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or (608) 257-3838.


    1 See Gretchen Viney, “The Guardian ad Litem: An Overview,” in Mary Beth Arnett et al., The Guardian ad Litem Handbook § 1.24 (State Bar of Wis. 5th ed. 2018) [hereinafter GAL Handbook].

    2 See id.

    3 See SCR ch. 35; see also Wis. Stat. § 757.48(1)(a) (domestic violence training).

    4 See SCR ch. 36.

    5 See, generally, Wis. Stat. § 757.48(1)(a) (providing that guardian ad litem must be “appointed by the court”).

    6 Viney, in GAL Handbook, supra note 1, § 1.14.

    7 See Kate A. Neugent, “Family Court: Wis. Stat. Ch. 767,” in GAL Handbook, supra note 1, § 3.15.

    8 See, generally, Wis. Stat. § 757.48(1)(b).

    9 Viney, in GAL Handbook, supra note 1, § 1.20.

    10 See id.

    11 See Viney, “Guardianship: Wis. Stat. Ch. 54,” in GAL Handbook, supra note 1, ch. 6.

    12 See Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, “Adults with Disabilities: The Human Side,” in GAL Handbook, supra note 1, § 5.32.

    13 See id. §§ 5.28, 5.52, 5.55; see also Mitchell Hagopian, “Protective Services and Protective Placement: Wis. Stat. Ch. 55,” in GAL Handbook, supra note 1, §§ 7.1, 7.27.

    14 Hagopian, “Protective Services and Protective Placement: Wis. Stat. Ch. 55,” in GAL Handbook, supra note 1, § 7.1.

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