This page is for information only. County Courts appoint GALs and review their services. Thus, DHS and the Client Rights Office do not provide advice to GALs unless their questions are related to the rights of their clients who are receiving services for mental illness, developmental disabilities or substance abuse.
The WI Guardianship Support Center (GSC) (exit DHS) provides information and assistance on issues related to guardianship, protective placement, advance directives, and more. That site may assist you with any other GAL questions.
Guardians Ad Litem (GAL)
Duties and Responsibilities in Guardianship Matters
Definition: A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an attorney who is appointed by a court to represent the interests of a party who may not be able to advocate for themselves (such as a minor or a possibly incompetent person) during the court process.
Appointment: A court appoints a GAL in proceedings regarding guardianship or protective placement or services. (ss. 54.40(1) and ss. 55.10(4)(b), Wis. Stats.)
Qualifications: Licensed attorney, who is not a party, relative of a party, or representative of a party to the proceedings. (ss. 54.40(2), Wis. Stats.)
Responsibilities: Advocate for the "best interests" of the client. The GAL shall consider, but not be bound by, the wishes of the ward or proposed ward. A GAL has none of the rights or duties of a guardian. (ss.54.40(3), Wis. Stats.)
General duties: (ss. 54.40(4), Wis. Stats.)
Communication to the jury: (ss. 54.40(5), Wis. Stats.)
Termination, extension of appointment: (ss. 54.40(6), Wis. Stats.)
Compensation: (ss. 54.74, and ss.55.10(b), Wis. Stats.)
Duties in annual reviews of protective placements: (ss. 55.18(2), Wis. Stats.)
Best interests of the client: In accordance with ss.55.001, Wis. Stats., protective placements and services should, to the maximum degree of feasibility, allow the individual the same rights as other citizens. The least possible restrictions should be placed on the individual's personal liberty and exercise of constitutional rights. At the same time, the individual must be protected from abuse, financial exploitation, neglect and self-neglect.
This policy sets up a balancing of competing interests: risk-taking in order to allow the individual to experience growth vs. caution and over-protectiveness to ensure their safety. The GAL should always consider: What is the least restrictive environment for the individual consistent with meeting their essential requirements for health, safety and protection?
Last Updated: February 25, 2014