The North Carolina General Assembly established the Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL) in 1983 to advocate for the best interests of children in abuse and neglect cases. At the trial level, GAL volunteers and attorney advocates, along with program staff, provide team representation for the child. When orders entered in juvenile cases are appealed, the GAL program continues to provide advocacy for the child’s best interests through staff, contract, and pro bono attorneys. Contract and pro bono attorneys are supported and trained by GAL Appellate Counsel and Associate Counsel.
GAL Pro Bono Attorneys
Help abused and neglected children achieve permanence and safety by representing their best interests in North Carolina’s appellate courts.
Write and file appellee briefs, and other documents, on behalf of the child, and appear for oral argument when appropriate.
Review transcripts and court files to settle the record on appeal, and conduct legal research.
Juvenile Appellate Procedure at a Glance
Appeals in juvenile cases are expedited by Rule 3.1 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure and heard by both the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of North Carolina. Rule 3.1 mandates shorter deadlines for transcripts and records and disfavors extensions of time.
GAL appellate briefs are typically due about 165 days from the filing of the notice of appeal. The due date is predictable because of the expedited timeline.
Expedited appeals are typically resolved within 12 months. Most are resolved without an oral argument, based on the record and the written briefs.
To represent all of North Carolina’s abuse and neglected children on appeal, the GAL Program relies on the contributions of pro bono attorneys. Our pro bono program provides attorneys with a unique opportunity to develop and sharpen appellate advocacy skills in a flexible program that accommodates their daily responsibilities. Take a case with our pro bono program today, and use your legal skills to help a child in need achieve permanence and stability.
To learn more about Guardian ad Litem pro bono attorney opportunities, contact our Appellate Counsel, Matthew D. Wunsche, at (919)890-1255 or Matthew.D.Wunsche@NCcourts.org.
The mission of the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program is to "Be A Voice For The Children In Our Community".
Last fiscal year almost 15,000 children interacted with the child welfare system across the state of North Carolina. Parents in those situations were represented by attorneys. However, children in those situations were represented by the Guardian ad Litem Program. This representation is a legal team model, with a community volunteer and an attorney advocate. This team supports children as they navigate the dependency court system. The Guardian ad Litem gives a voice to abused and neglected children. This is captured in the program’s mission statement, "Be A Voice For The Children In Our Community".
The role of the volunteer advocate is to investigate and determine the needs of abused and neglected children and youth. They represent the child’s best interest in court. Volunteer advocates also promote a safe and permanent home for children, amongst many other things. A Guardian ad Litem volunteer advocate focuses entirely on the child, advocating for services, recommending community resources, and being the child’s voice in court.
Although thousands of volunteer advocates are currently serving children across the state, many more volunteers are needed in various locations across the state - especially in rural areas. This will address the 2000 children still needing a volunteer.