Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Northern Mariana Islands

Date:

Making The Appointment

Citation: Commonwealth Code Tit. 8, §§ 1982; 1983

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an officer of the court who reports directly to the court and who provides independent advice to the court (as compared to the attorneys advocating for one side or the other in the action) to bring balance to the decision-making process.

Because minor children cannot make legal decisions for themselves, in any legal proceeding in which the legal interests of a juvenile and the legal interests of the parents or other legal guardians of the juvenile are considered to be adverse or in conflict with each other, a GAL will be appointed for the juvenile by the court to provide an independent adult to act on behalf of the juvenile and to make certain that the interests and legal rights of the juvenile are given adequate consideration and are adequately protected in that process. The legal protective status of a GAL will exist only within the confines of the particular court case in which the appointment was made.

The superior court may, and in wardship cases shall, appoint a GAL for a juvenile to serve until discharged by the court.

A GAL appointed pursuant to this section is an advocate for a juvenile whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Commonwealth Code Tit. 8, § 1983

The superior court may, at its discretion, establish a Guardian Ad Litem Program within the family court, to serve as a system to provide training and supervision to volunteers who serve as court-appointed special advocates for children in abuse and neglect proceedings within the family court.

Qualifications/Training

Citation: Commonwealth Code Tit. 8, § 1985

No person may be appointed as a GAL for a juvenile, other minor, or other legally incompetent individual in any proceeding if that person has a criminal history that poses a risk to children. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Violent felonies in which an individual threatens to cause, attempts to cause, or causes serious bodily injury
  • Violent sexual, offenses as defined by commonwealth law or similar offenses in other jurisdictions
  • A criminal sex offense against a minor, as defined by commonwealth law or similar offenses in other jurisdictions
  • Child abuse or neglect, as defined by commonwealth law or similar offenses in other jurisdictions
  • Violations of the commonwealth Minor Children Firearms Control Act or similar offenses in other jurisdictions
  • Distribution of a controlled substance to persons under age 18, as defined by commonwealth law or similar offenses in other jurisdictions

All other criminal histories will be evaluated based on the nature and severity of the incident, the identity of the victim, the length of time since the incident, whether any specific pattern of criminal behavior exists, and specific efforts the individual has made toward rehabilitation.

Specific Duties

Citation: Commonwealth Code Tit. 8, § 1984; 1986; 1987

The responsibilities and duties of a GAL are to do the following:

  • Represent the best interests of the juvenile
  • Advocate for the welfare and rights of a juvenile alleged to be a victim in an abuse or neglect proceeding
  • Conduct an independent assessment of the facts, the needs of the child, and the available resources within the family and community to meet those needs
  • Provide the court with a written report or reports, including, without limitation, evaluation and assessment of the issues brought before the court, recommendations for disposition of the case, and, if appropriate, the wishes of the juvenile
  • Monitor compliance with court orders during the pendency of the court case
  • Protect and promote the best interests of the juvenile until formally relieved of the responsibility by the court

The GAL may make, but shall not be required to, such motions as may be necessary to enforce court orders or to seek judicial review.

After appointment by the court to a case involving an abused or neglected juvenile, the GAL shall receive appropriate notice of all court hearings and proceedings regarding the juvenile. The GAL is authorized to do the following:

  • Conduct an independent assessment of the facts
  • Confer with and observe the juvenile
  • Interview persons involved in the case
  • Participate in any evaluation team for the case on which the GAL has been appointed
  • Make recommendations to the court concerning the child's welfare
  • Make motions necessary to enforce any court orders, seek judicial review, or petition the court for relief on behalf of the child
  • Exercise additional powers ordered by the court that may be appropriate in the circumstances of each case

The GAL is authorized, through counsel if appropriate, to introduce, examine, and cross-examine witnesses in any proceeding involving the juvenile and participate in the proceedings to any degree necessary to adequately represent the juvenile.

All reports made and information collected by the Department of Youth Services must be made available to the GAL. Upon proof of appointment as GAL and upon the GAL's request, access to information must be made available to the GAL by the appropriate medical and dental authorities and service providers, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, social workers, counselors, schools, and any agency providing services to the juvenile to the extent authorized by Commonwealth and Federal law.

How the Representative Is Compensated

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.