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

Date: June 2021

Making The Appointment

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-7-1620

In all child abuse and neglect proceedings, children must be appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL) by the family court. A GAL serving on behalf of the South Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program or Richland County Court-Appointed Special Advocate Propgram must be represented by legal counsel in any judicial proceeding pursuant to § 63-11-530(C).

The family court may appoint legal counsel for the child. Counsel for the child may not be the same as counsel for any of the following:

  • The parent, legal guardian, or other person subject to the proceeding
  • Any government or social agency involved in the proceeding
  • The child's GAL

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Ann. Code § 63-11-500

The Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program in South Carolina is a statewide system that provides training and supervision to volunteers who serve as court-appointed special advocates (CASAs) for children in abuse and neglect proceedings within the family court. This program must be administered by the Department of Administration.

Notwithstanding the provisions above, a county providing GAL services prior to June 3, 2010, may continue to provide such services, provided the county GAL program is a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association. However, a county GAL program operating pursuant to this subsection must comply with all State and Federal laws, even if compliance with State or Federal laws would result in the violation of a requirement for membership in the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association.


Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63-3-820; 63-11-520

A GAL must be age 25 or older and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. An attorney-GAL must annually complete a minimum of 6 hours of family law continuing legal education credits in the areas of custody and visitation; however, this requirement may be waived by the court.

For initial qualification, a lay GAL must have completed a minimum of 9 hours of continuing education in the areas of custody and visitation and 3 hours of continuing education related to substantive law and procedure in family court. The courses must be approved by the Supreme Court Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization. A lay GAL also must observe three contested custody merit hearings prior to serving as a GAL. The lay GAL must maintain a certificate showing that observation of these hearings has been completed. This certificate, which shall be on a form approved by Court Administration, shall state the names of the cases, the dates, and the judges involved and shall be attested to by the respective judge. Lay GALs must complete annually 6 hours of continuing education courses in the areas of custody and visitation.

No person may be appointed as a GAL for a child in an abuse or neglect proceeding who has been convicted of any crime listed in Title 16, Chapter 3, Offenses Against the Person; Title 16, Chapter 15, Offenses Against Morality and Decency; Title 44, Chapter 53, Article 3, Narcotics and Controlled Substances; or for the crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, provided for in § 16-17-490.

Specific Duties

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 63-11-510; 63-11-530; 63-11-540

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

  • Represent the best interests of the child
  • Advocate for the welfare and rights of the child
  • 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
  • Maintain accurate, written case records
  • Provide the court with a written report that includes an evaluation and assessment of the issues brought before the court and recommendations for the case plan; the wishes of the child, if appropriate; and subsequent disposition of the case
  • Monitor compliance with the orders of the court and to make the motions necessary to enforce the orders of the court or seek judicial review
  • Protect and promote the best interests of the child until formally relieved of the responsibility by the court

The GAL shall receive appropriate notice of all court hearings and proceedings regarding the child. The obligation of the GAL to the court is a continuing one and continues until formally relieved by the court. The GAL is authorized to do the following:

  • Confer with and observe the child involved
  • Interview persons involved in the case
  • Participate on any multidisciplinary evaluation team for the case

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

All reports made and information about the case must be made available to the GAL by the Department of Social Services. Upon proof of appointment as GAL and upon his or her request, access to information must be made available to the GAL by the appropriate medical and dental authorities, psychologists, social workers, counselors, schools, and any agency providing services to the child.

How the Representative Is Compensated

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.