Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - North Carolina

Date: June 2021

Making The Appointment

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-601

When a petition alleges that a child is abused, neglected, or dependent, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the child.

In every case where a nonattorney is appointed as a GAL, an attorney shall be appointed in the case in order to ensure protection of the child's legal rights throughout the proceeding.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.


Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-1200

The Office of Guardian ad Litem Services is established in the Administrative Office of the Courts to provide services in accordance with § 7B-601 to abused, neglected, or dependent children involved in judicial proceedings and to ensure that all participants in these proceedings are adequately trained to carry out their responsibilities. Each local program shall consist of volunteer GALs, at least one program attorney, a program coordinator who is a paid State employee, and any clerical staff the Administrative Office of the Courts, in consultation with the local program, deems necessary. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall adopt rules and regulations necessary and appropriate for the administration of the program.

Specific Duties

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-601

The GAL and attorney advocate have standing to represent the child in all actions to which they have been appointed. The appointment shall terminate when the permanent plan has been achieved for the child and approved by the court. The court may reappoint the GAL pursuant to a showing of good cause upon motion of any party, including the GAL or the court.

The duties of the GAL program shall be the following:

  • To make an investigation to determine the facts, the needs of the child, and the available resources within the family and community to meet those needs
  • To facilitate, when appropriate, the settlement of disputed issues
  • To offer evidence and examine witnesses at adjudication
  • To explore options with the court at the dispositional hearing
  • To conduct follow-up investigations to ensure that the orders of the court are executed properly
  • To report to the court when the needs of the child are not met
  • To protect and promote the best interests of the child until formally relieved of the responsibility by the court

The court may authorize the GAL to accompany the juvenile to court in any criminal action wherein the juvenile may be called on to testify in a matter relating to abuse.

The GAL has the authority to obtain any information or reports, whether or not confidential, that may, in the GAL's opinion, be relevant to the case. No privilege other than the attorney-client privilege may be invoked to prevent the GAL and the court from obtaining such information. The confidentiality of the information or reports shall be respected by the GAL, and no disclosure of any information or reports shall be made to anyone except by order of the court or unless otherwise provided by law.

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-603

An attorney or GAL shall be paid a reasonable fee fixed by the court or by direct engagement for specialized GAL services through the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The court may require payment of the fee for an attorney or GAL from a person other than the child. In no event shall the parent or guardian be required to pay the fees for a court-appointed attorney or GAL in an abuse, neglect, or dependency proceeding, unless the child has been adjudicated to be abused, neglected, or dependent, or in a proceeding to terminate parental rights, unless the parent's rights have been terminated. If the party is ordered to reimburse the State for attorney or GAL fees and fails to comply with the order at the time of disposition, the court shall file a judgment against the party for the amount due the State.