The 1996 legislature made a number of changes regarding the appointment of guardians ad litem in Titles 11, 13 and 26. In general, those changes require that each court establish a registry of pre-approved guardians ad litem for each category of case. This document contains the Whatcom County Superior Court procedures adopted to implement those changes. The following is a summary of the procedures:
RCW 11.88.090 (3)(a), alleged incapacity, guardians ad litem will be appointed from the registry of those individuals pre-approved to serve in such cases. Appointments are to be recorded in the order of appointment and referred to in order to ascertain the next-eligible individual to be appointed (PDF). Counsel and litigants may present fill-in-the-name orders appointing a GAL to the court. The named GAL may decline to accept a case, at which time the presenting party should submit a similar Amended Order Appointing Guardian ad Litem.
Juvenile Dependency Cases
RCW 13.34.100, juvenile dependency, guardians ad litem will continue to be appointed under the longstanding program of referral to pre-approved contract guardians ad litem, making referrals to the current contractors.
Domestic Relations Cases
RCW 26.12.175,domestic relations, guardians ad litem will be appointed from the registry of those individuals pre-approved to serve in such cases. In such domestic relations cases the parties may stipulate to the appointment of one of the pre-approved guardians ad litem, and are encouraged to do so. In the event that the parties are not able or willing to so stipulate, one of the parties must, in writing or via email, ask the Court Administrator/Commissioner to issue a strike list of the next three eligible domestic relations guardians ad litem. Each side may strike one of the three and the unstricken, or first unstricken, proposed guardian ad litem will be appointed. Counsel and litigants may present fill-in-the-name orders appointing a GAL to the court. The named GAL may decline to accept a case, at which time the presenting party should submit a similar Amended Order Appointing Guardian ad Litem or request a new strike list, as appropriate.
It is the parties' responsibility to pay guardians ad litem in guardianship and domestic relations cases. In certain cases the county may be required to pay for those services. In domestic relations cases, the presumption is that the parties will equally share the cost of the guardian ad litem. In the event that one or both of the parties claims to be indigent, he or she must complete a court Affidavit of Indigency (PDF).
The court will determine indigency. If an attorney represents any party, he or she is presumed to be able to pay a GAL fee. That presumption is rebuttable upon appropriate declaration of the attorney or the party. Only if both parties are found to be indigent and any presumption arising from the employment of counsel is rebutted will the county pay the guardian ad litem fee. All orders appointing GALs should contain fee payment language. The Order Appointing Guardian ad Litem containing the court approved fee payment language may be downloaded (PDF).
All requests for GAL appointments are to be referred to Superior Court Administrator Dave Reynolds.