Public Safety and Corrections
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Joseph Belcher

Director

Agency Overview
Wyoming Office of Guardian ad Litem is a state and county funded agency that provides attorney guardian ad litem (GALs) for children in juvenile court. Attorney GAL's appointment is mandatory in all abuse/neglect juvenile court cases and discretionary in child in need of supervision and delinquency juvenile court cases. The agency also provides representation to children in termination of parental rights and appeal cases that arise out of the three types of cases listed before.

 

The attorney GAL's client is the child. Attorney GALs, in Wyoming, represent children in the hybrid model of representation where they represent both what the child wants and what is in the child's best interests, unless the child in a CHINS or delinquency proceeding has a direct attorney, then the attorney GAL represents only the child's best interests. The attorneys are required to meet with the children and their caregivers, conduct an independent investigation, work cooperatively with the juvenile court team, as well as zealously advocate for their clients. More information on the Agency's history, the attorneys we contract with/employ and what is required of each of the attorney GALs can be found on this site.


Agency Background and Structure
2008: Wyoming Office of Guardian ad Litem Moved Under the Wyoming Office of the State Public Defender

Among the many changes made by the State Public Defender (SPD) when the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) took over the administration of the Agency, the first was hiring an attorney to run and oversee the Program. This allowed the Program to establish a supervisory role of the GALs and also provide robust case resources and assistance. The OPD adopted rules through the ABA rules process to govern the Program and the GALs, adopted policies, and changed the reimbursement method to the counties so that the Program paid the costs up-front, then billed the counties quarterly for the 25% match.

Beginning July 1, 2008, all GALs who represented children in juvenile court had to contract with the OPD instead of the counties in which they practiced. The GAL was then paid directly via the Agency and the program billed the counties for the 25% match. This allowed a greater connection between the state dollars and the legal representation, and it also gave the Agency a different role with attorney GALs. Some of the other major changes made at this time included changing the caseload standards; increasing the specificity of the representation standards in the rules; and taking over the case appointment process to ensure qualified and appropriate attorneys are assigned, caseloads are suitable, and attorneys are appointed in a timely manner, or before the shelter care hearing.

2012: Wyoming Office of Guardian ad Litem Codified

In the 2012 legislative budget session, a bill was introduced and passed that codified the Wyoming Guardians Ad Litem Program. The bill, Senate File 99-Enrolled Act 40, was sponsored by Senators Nicholas, Perkins, and Ross, and Representatives Gingery, Berger, and Lubnau. Governor Mead then signed the bill into law on on March 13, 2012.

There were five total sections of the bill. Section One set forth the Legislature’s intent to codify what it had previously created by session law. Section Two created Wyoming Statutes §§ 14-12-101 through 14-12-104, now known as the Wyoming Guardian ad Litem Program statutes. Section Three contained conforming amendments to include the PD and GAL contract attorneys under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act and the state self-insurance program; added the duty of administering the Wyoming Office of Guardian ad Litem to the statutory duties in the PD Act; added the Agency to the annual PD agency report; made clear that the PD Act does not apply to the Agency; and conformed Title 14 provisions for payment of GAL services to include the Agency. Section Four continued the same funding that was already authorized for the Agency. Finally, Section Five made the legislation effective immediately.