The Office of Law Guardian (OLG), a unit within the Office of
the Public Defender, provides legal representation to children
in family court matters involving allegations of abuse and neglect
against parents or other caregivers, or in cases involving termination
of parental rights.
In child welfare cases in New Jersey, children have rights separate
and distinct from those of their parents. One important right a
child has is the right to have an attorney, known as a law guardian,
represent the child in court, present the child’s wishes
to the judge and protect the child’s legal interests throughout
the legal proceeding. A law guardian maintains a traditional lawyer-client
relationship with the child to the extent possible.
The law guardian helps the child-client understand the child’s
legal rights and the court process and keeps the child informed
as the case progresses through the child welfare system. The law
guardian will counsel the child and give legal advice about the
most realistic course of action to protect the child’s safety
and to advance the child’s wishes and interests. The special
training and expertise of law guardians help the child participate
fully in court hearings.
Each law guardian works as a part of a team of professionals on
behalf of the children OLG represents. This team includes specially
trained investigators and clerical staff. Investigators take an
active role in meeting the child to discover the relevant facts
of the case necessary to developing a position on behalf of the
Similar to the confidential relationship between attorneys and
the clients in other types of matters, the law guardian attorney
and investigator enjoy a confidential relationship with the child-client.
In order to protect the confidentiality of this relationship, the
law guardian attorney and investigator may ask to meet privately
with the child-client either at home or at school.
The investigator may also need to interview other people involved
in the child’s life to gain facts about the case and to help
further the child’s position. It is important that the investigator
be provided with accurate information that will allow the child’s
lawyer to develop the best legal position for the child.
OLG has a separate appellate unit (OLGA) responsible for handling
appellate matters. Currently, OLGA has seven appellate attorneys
representing the interests and wishes of minor clients before both
the Appellate Division and the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The OLG also undertakes DYFS conflict investigations when allegations
of abuse are made against DYFS staff or members of their families.
The “Conflict Unit” within OLG is comprised of a team
of highly skilled investigators who work exclusively on conducting
investigations of such allegations.
OLG Resources and Offices
OLG has staff attorneys throughout the state assigned to represent
children in child welfare matters. Currently, OLG has seven trial
regions comprised of thirteen (13) offices throughout the state.
Click here for a listing of the OLG Offices
When children are involved with DYFS (the Division of Youth and
Family Services) and are removed from their homes because their
parents are not able to care for them at this time, you and the
members of your family will go to court to talk with the judge.
If this happens to you and your family, one important right you
have in New Jersey is the right to your own lawyer separate from
your parents who will stand up just for you in the court case.
This lawyer has a special name and is called a “law guardian.”
Here are some basic questions you may have about your law guardian:
WHAT IS A LAW GUARDIAN?
A law guardian is a specially trained lawyer chosen by the judge
to stick up for you in court. Your law guardian speaks to the judge
for you and tells the judge what you want and what you need. Your
law guardian works only for you and not for DYFS or for your parents.
Your law guardian will help you to understand the court proceeding
and explain the choices you may have.
WILL MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS ALSO HAVE A LAW GUARDIAN?
Yes. Usually, the same law guardian represents all the children
in one family who are involved in the court case. However, if your
wishes or interests are different from those of your brothers or
sisters, then another law guardian may be asked to represent your
HOW OFTEN WILL I SEE MY LAW GUARDIAN?
Your law guardian will come to visit you in your home or at your
school at different times throughout your case. Your law guardian
works together with a partner called an “investigator” who
will also visit you. Your law guardian and investigator work together
to help you and to speak for you during the court case. Your conversations
with your law guardian and investigator are private and cannot
be shared with others without your permission.
Your law guardian and investigator may speak to other people in
your life such as your resource family, your counselor or your
teacher so that your law guardian can better serve you.
HOW CAN I REACH MY LAW GUARDIAN?
Each law guardian works in an office in the area where your court
case is happening. Your law guardian will provide you with the
office phone number to call if you need to reach your law guardian.
If you do not have this number, you can call our main office and
ask for help in reaching your law guardian. The number to call