Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Michigan

Date: June 2021

Making The Appointment

Citation: Comp. Laws. §§ 722.630; 712A.17d

In each case filed under the child protection act in which judicial proceedings are necessary, the court shall appoint a lawyer-guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the child. A lawyer-GAL represents the child and has powers and duties in relation to that representation as set forth in § 712A.17d.

If, after discussion between the child and his or her lawyer-GAL, the lawyer-GAL determines that the child's interests as identified by the child are inconsistent with the lawyer-GAL's determination of the child's best interests, the lawyer-GAL shall communicate the child's position to the court. If the court considers the appointment appropriate considering the child's age and maturity and the nature of the inconsistency between the child's and the lawyer-GAL's identification of the child's interests, the court may appoint an attorney for the child. An attorney appointed under this subsection serves in addition to the child's lawyer-GAL.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.


Citation: Comp. Laws § 712A.17d

The lawyer-GAL shall participate in training in early childhood, child, and adolescent development.

Specific Duties

Citation: Comp. Laws § 712A.17d

A lawyer-GAL's duty is to the child and not the court. The lawyer-GAL's powers and duties include at least the following:

  • To serve as the independent representative for the child's best interests and be entitled to full and active participation in all aspects of the litigation and access to all relevant information regarding the child
  • To determine the facts of the case by conducting an independent investigation, including, but not limited to, interviewing the child, social workers, family members, and others, as necessary, and reviewing relevant reports and other information
  • To meet with or observe the child and assess the child's needs and wishes with regard to the representation and the issues in the case before all hearings
  • To explain to the child, taking into account the child's ability to understand the proceedings, the lawyer-GAL's role
  • To file all necessary pleadings and papers and independently call witnesses on the child's behalf
  • To attend all hearings and substitute representation for the child only with court approval
  • To make a determination regarding the child's best interests and advocate for those best interests, regardless of whether the lawyer-GAL's determination reflects the child's wishes
  • To inform the court of the child's wishes and preferences
  • To monitor the implementation of case plans and court orders and determine whether services the court ordered for the child or the child's family are being provided in a timely manner and are accomplishing their purpose
  • To identify common interests among the parties and, to the extent possible, promote a cooperative resolution of the matter through consultation with the child's parent, foster care provider, guardian, and caseworker
  • To request authorization by the court to pursue issues on the child's behalf that do not arise specifically from the court appointment

The agency case file shall be reviewed before disposition and before the hearing for termination of parental rights. Updated materials shall be reviewed as provided to the court and parties. The supervising agency shall provide documentation of progress relating to all aspects of the last court-ordered treatment plan, including copies of evaluations and therapy reports and verification of parenting time not later than 5 business days before the scheduled hearing.

The child's wishes are relevant to the lawyer-GAL's determination of the child's best interests, and the lawyer-GAL shall weigh the child's wishes according to the child's competence and maturity. Consistent with the law governing attorney-client privilege, the lawyer-GAL shall inform the court as to the child's wishes and preferences.

The lawyer-GAL shall inform the court if services are not being provided in a timely manner, if the family fails to take advantage of services, or if the services provided are not accomplishing their intended purpose.

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Comp. Laws § 712A.18(5)

If the court appoints an attorney to represent a juvenile, parent, guardian, or custodian, the court may require in an order entered under this section that the juvenile, parent, guardian, or custodian reimburse the court for attorney fees.