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Communication by Guardian ad Litem with Represented Person

Adopted: January 19, 2007

Opinion rules that the prohibition against communications with represented persons does not apply to a lawyer acting solely as a guardian ad litem.

Inquiry #1:

G.S. Section 7B-601 of the Juvenile Code provides for the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL) for every child alleged to be abused or neglected. The section states that a GAL who is not an attorney shall be appointed an attorney to assure the protection of the child's legal rights through the dispositional phase of the proceedings and after disposition when necessary to further the best interests of the child. The section also provides that the GAL and the attorney advocate have standing to represent the juvenile in all actions under the subject chapter.

Some of the duties of the GAL, as defined in G.S. 7B-601, include: investigating the facts, the needs of the juvenile, and the available resources within the family and community to meet those needs; facilitating, when appropriate, the settlement of disputed issues; exploring options with the judge at the dispositional hearing; and protecting and promoting the best interests of the juvenile.

It is alleged that Child A was sexually abused by her father. Attorney X and Guardian Ad Litem Y were appointed to represent Child A in the juvenile petition. Guardian Ad Litem Y is not an attorney. She is interested in interviewing the mother of Child A. The mother is represented in this matter by another attorney. Must Guardian Ad Litem Y obtain the approval of the mother's attorney before communicating with the mother?

Opinion #1:

No. Rule 4.2 only prohibits communications with a represented person "[d]uring [the lawyer's] representation of a client." This prohibition does not apply to Guardian Ad Litem Y because it does not apply to nonlawyers.

Inquiry #2:

Would Opinion #1 be different if Guardian Ad Litem Y is an attorney but is performing the role of guardian ad litem solely and is not performing the role of the attorney advocate?

Opinion #2:

No. Guardian Ad Litem Y may communicate with the mother without obtaining the consent of the mother's attorney. If Guardian Ad Litem Y is not acting as the attorney advocate but is only serving as the appointed special guardian "at law" of the child, she is not subject to the prohibition in Rule 4.2 because she is not acting in the course of her representation of a client. See Opinion #1.

Inquiry #3:

Would Opinion #1 change if the person with whom Guardian Ad Litem Y wanted to speak also had an appointed GAL?

Opinion #3:


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