If the natural parent(s) do not agree with the adoption, there is a hearing to determine if their rights should be involuntarily terminated. In any contested adoption, an attorney must be appointed to represent the interests of the adoptee(s). This person is often referred to as a Guardian Ad Litem. An attorney may also be appointed for the parent contesting the adoption. In addition to determining whether grounds exist to involuntarily terminate a natural parent's rights, the court must also consider the needs and welfare of the proposed adoptee(s). This is often where the role of the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is most important.
The adoptee may be appointed an attorney to represent their interests in the context of an adoption matter. Specifically, if a petition for involuntary termination of the natural parent(s)' rights is pending. When presiding over a petition for involuntary termination, the court must consider the needs and welfare of the child(ren) involved. A major factor is the emotional bond between the parent and child and potential consequence of severing that bond. A parent's representation of love and affection for a child without further corroboration, are not sufficient to prevent termination of their rights based on the best interests of the child.
Section 3308 of the Divorce Code provides for an action in divorce where the defendant is suffering from a mental disorder. In practice, however, seeking a divorce where one of the parties is mentally incapacitated can raise unique issues. The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure discuss the steps that must be taken when one of the parties is incapacitated. An incapacitated person is defined as an "adult whose ability to receive and evaluate information effectively and communicate decisions in any way is impaired to such a significant extent that the person is partially or totally unable to manage financial resources or to meet the essential requirements for physical health and safety." Pa. R.C.P. 2051. If a person is determined to be incapacitated a guardian ad litem must be appointed to act on that party's behalf.
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney the court appoints to represent the best interests, and often times the legal interests, of a child in a court proceeding. Once appointed, the GAL should participate in all future proceedings as necessary to continue to ensure the child's interest. By law, the GAL is mandated to meet with the child as soon as possible following appointment. Additionally, the GAL should review all the relevant records related to the case and conduct further investigation as deemed necessary. Further investigation may include speaking with the child's parents and/or guardians as well as interviewing other potential witnesses.