Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Utah

Date: June 2021

Making The Appointment

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 78A-2-801; 78A-2-803

Effective September 1, 2021: As used in this chapter, the term 'attorney guardian ad litem' means an attorney employed by the Office of Guardian ad Litem. 'Guardian ad litem' means an attorney guardian ad litem (GAL) or a private attorney guardian ad litem. A 'private attorney guardian ad litem' means an attorney designated by the office who is not an employee of the office.

The court may appoint an attorney GAL to represent the best interests of a minor involved in any case before the court.

An attorney GAL shall represent the best interests of each minor who may become the subject of an abuse, neglect, or dependency petition from the earlier of either of the following:

  • The day on which the minor is removed from the minor€™s home by the Division of Child and Family Services
  • The day on which the abuse, neglect, or dependency petition is filed

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Ann. Code § 78A-2-803

An attorney GAL may use trained volunteers, trained paralegals, and other trained staff to assist in investigation and preparation of information regarding the cases of individual minors before the court.

All volunteers, paralegals, and staff utilized pursuant to this section shall be trained in and follow, at a minimum, the guidelines established by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association.


Citation: Ann. Code §§ 78A-2-802; 78A-2-803

The Office of Guardian ad Litem director shall do the following:

  • Establish policy and procedure for the management of a statewide GAL program Manage the GAL program to ensure that minors receive qualified GAL services in abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings in accordance with State and Federal law and policy
  • Develop standards for contracts of employment and contracts with independent contractors to employ or contract with attorneys licensed to practice law in this State to act as attorney GALs
  • Develop and provide training programs for attorney GALs and volunteers in accordance with National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association standards
  • Develop and update a GAL manual that includes the following:
    • Best practices for an attorney GAL
    • Statutory and case law relating to an attorney GAL
  • Develop and provide a library of materials for the continuing education of attorney GALs and volunteers
  • Educating court personnel regarding the role and function of GALs

Before representing any minor before the court, each attorney GAL must be trained in applicable statutory, regulatory, and case law and nationally recognized standards for an attorney guardian GAL.

Specific Duties

Citation: Ann. Code § 78A-2-803

Each attorney GAL must do the following:

  • Represent the best interests of each client in all venues, including court proceedings and meetings to develop, review, or modify the child and family plan with the division
  • Conduct or supervise an ongoing, independent investigation to obtain, first-hand, a clear understanding of the situation and needs of the minor
  • Personally meet with the minor unless the minor is outside of the State or meeting with the minor would be detrimental to the minor
  • Personally interview the minor unless the following apply:
    • The minor is not old enough to communicate.
    • The minor lacks the capacity to participate in a meaningful interview.
    • The interview would be detrimental to the minor.
  • If the minor is placed in an out-of-home placement or is being considered for placement in an out-of-home placement, do the following:
    • To the extent possible, determine the minor's goals and concerns regarding placement
    • Personally assess or supervise an assessment of the appropriateness and safety of the minor's environment in each placement
  • Personally attend all review hearings pertaining to the minor's case
  • Participate in all appeals, unless excused by order of the court
  • Consult with local experts who can provide consultation and testimony regarding the reasonableness and appropriateness of efforts made by the division to do maintain a minor in the minor's home or reunify a minor with a minor's parent
  • To the extent possible and, unless it would be detrimental to the minor, personally or through a trained volunteer, paralegal, or other trained staff, keeps the minor advised of the following:
    • The status of the minor's case
    • All court and administrative proceedings
    • Discussions with and proposals made by other parties
    • Court action
    • The psychiatric, medical, or other treatment or diagnostic services that are to be provided to the minor
  • In cases where a child and family plan is required, monitor implementation of a minor's child and family plan and any dispositional orders to do the following:

    • Determine whether services ordered by the court are actually provided and are provided in a timely manner
    • Attempt to assess whether services are accomplishing the intended goal of the services

    Make all necessary court filings to advance the GAL's position regarding the best interests of the minor

The attorney GAL shall continue to represent the best interests of the minor until released from that duty by the court.

If the minor's wishes differ from the attorney's determination of the minor's best interests, the attorney GAL shall communicate the minor's wishes to the court in addition to presenting the attorney's determination of the minor's best interests. A difference between the minor's wishes and the attorney's determination of best interests may not be considered a conflict of interest for the attorney. The GAL shall disclose the wishes of the minor unless the minor instructs the GAL to not disclose the minor's wishes or has not expressed any wishes.

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Ann. Code § 78A-2-803

The juvenile court is responsible for the following:

  • All costs resulting from the appointment of an attorney GAL
  • The costs of volunteer, paralegal, and other staff appointment and training

The court shall use funds appropriated by the legislature for the GAL program to cover the costs described above.

When the court appoints an attorney GAL under this section, the court may assess all or part of the attorney fees; court costs; and paralegal, staff, and volunteer expenses against the child's parent(s) or legal guardian in a proportion that the court determines to be just and appropriate, taking into consideration costs already borne by the parent(s) or legal guardian, including the following:

  • Private attorney fees
  • Counseling for the child
  • Counseling for the parent, if mandated by the court or recommended by the division
  • Any other cost the court determines to be relevant

The court may not assess those fees or costs against a legal guardian when that guardian is the State or a parent who is found to be an indigent individual. If a person claims to be an indigent individual, the court shall do the following:

  • Require that person to submit an affidavit of indigence, as provided in § 78A-2-302
  • Follow the procedures and make the determinations, as provided in § 78A-2-304

The child's parent(s) or legal guardian may appeal the court's determination of fees, costs, and expenses.