Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - New Mexico

Date:

Making The Appointment

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 32A-4-10

At the inception of an abuse and neglect proceeding, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for a child younger than age 14. If the child is age 14 or older, the court shall appoint an attorney for the child.

When a child reaches age 14, the child's GAL shall continue as the child's attorney. The court shall appoint a different attorney for the child if the following apply:

  • The child requests a different attorney.
  • The GAL requests to be removed.
  • The court determines that the appointment of a different attorney is appropriate.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 32A-1-4; Children's Court Rules § 10-164

A court-appointed special advocate (CASA) is a person appointed pursuant to the provisions of the Children's Court Rules to assist the court in determining the best interests of the child by investigating the case and submitting a report to the court.

In court rules: A CASA may be appointed by a children's court judge pursuant to the provisions of this rule to assist in any children's court proceeding. Any volunteer appointed to serve as a CASA pursuant to this rule shall meet the following qualifications:

  • Be of the age of majority
  • Have successfully passed screening requirements, including a written application, personal interview, reference checks, and criminal records checks
  • Have successfully completed initial and regular inservice training in accordance with the guidelines of the statewide CASA network
  • Remain under the supervision of the local CASA director

The CASA may assist the court with the following:

  • In determining the best interests of the child by investigating the facts of the situation when directed by the court and submitting reports to the parties
  • By monitoring compliance with the treatment plan and submitting reports to the court and the parties subsequent to adjudication

Any volunteer appointed to serve as a CASA pursuant to this rule shall be assigned duties consistent with the best interests of the child, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Reviewing records other than those records to which access is limited by the court
  • Interviewing appropriate parties
  • Monitoring case progress
  • Preparing reports based on the investigation conducted by the CASA, including recommendations to the court
  • Conducting business while maintaining confidentiality of information obtained

Qualifications/Training

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 32A-1-4; 32A-4-10; 32A-18-1

A GAL is an attorney appointed by the children's court to represent and protect the best interests of the child in a case. No party or employee or representative of a party to the case shall be appointed to serve as a GAL.

No officer or employee of an agency that is vested with the legal custody of the child shall be appointed as GAL or attorney for the child. Only an attorney with appropriate experience shall be appointed as GAL of or attorney for the child.

A person who serves as a judge, prosecutor, child's attorney, GAL, treatment guardian, court-appointed attorney, CASA, foster parent, mental health commissioner, or mental health treatment service provider for a child subject to an abuse or neglect petition, a family in need of services petition, or a mental health placement shall receive periodic training, to the extent of available resources, to develop his or her knowledge about children, the physical and psychological formation of children, and the impact of ethnicity on a child's needs. Institutions that serve children and their families shall, considering available resources, provide similar training to institutional staff.

The training shall include study of the following:

  • Cross-cultural dynamics and sensitivity
  • Child development
  • Family composition and dynamics
  • Parenting skills and practices
  • Culturally appropriate treatment plans
  • Alternative health practices

Specific Duties

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 32A-1-7

A GAL shall zealously represent the child's best interests in the proceeding for which the GAL has been appointed and in any subsequent appeals. After consultation with the child, a GAL shall convey the child's declared position to the court at every hearing. Unless a child's circumstances render the following duties and responsibilities unreasonable, a GAL shall do the following:

  • Meet with and interview the child prior to custody hearings, adjudicatory hearings, dispositional hearings, judicial reviews, and any other hearings scheduled in accordance with the Children's Code
  • Communicate with health-care, mental-health care, and other professionals involved with the child's case
  • Review medical and psychological reports relating to the child and the respondents
  • Contact the child prior to any proposed change in the child's placement
  • Contact the child after changes in the child's placement
  • Attend local substitute care review board hearings concerning the child and, if unable to attend the hearings, forward to the board a letter setting forth the child's status during the period since the last board review and include an assessment of the Children, Youth and Families Department's permanency and treatment plans
  • Report to the court on the child's adjustment to placement, the department's and respondent's compliance with prior court orders and treatment plans, and the child's degree of participation during visitations
  • Represent and protect the cultural needs of the child

A GAL shall receive notices, pleadings, or other documents required to be provided to or served upon a party. A GAL may file motions and other pleadings and take other actions consistent with the GAL's powers and duties.

A GAL shall not serve concurrently as both the child's delinquency attorney and GAL. Any party may petition the court for an order to remove a GAL on the grounds that the GAL has a conflict of interest or is unwilling or unable to zealously represent the child's best interests.

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 32A-1-19

Reasonable compensation for services and related expenses of a GAL or a child's attorney shall be a charge upon the funds of the court upon their certification by the court.

The court may order the parent or other person legally obligated to care for and support a child to pay all or part of the costs and expenses of a GAL or attorney when the following apply:

  • The child has been found to be an abused or neglected child.
  • The parent or other person legally obligated to care for and support a child is given notice and a hearing to determine the parent or person's financial ability to pay the costs and expenses.
  • The court finds that the parent or person is able to pay all or part of the costs and expenses.

Unless otherwise ordered, payment shall be made to the court for remittance to those to whom compensation is due or, if costs and expenses have been paid by the court, to the court for remittance to the State. The court may prescribe the manner of payment.