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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the Application Process
Questions about the GAL training
Questions about cases
Questions about getting started
Questions about GAL duties
Questions about APS
Questions concerning GAL workload
Questions about no longer being a GAL
Questions about receiving payment for cases
Questions regarding indemnification

Questions about the Application Process:

What do I need to do to become a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)?
To become a GAL in Housing Court, you must submit a completed application, resume, and two professional references to the GAL Program. You must also complete a full day of training.

How can I obtain an application?
To obtain an application, click on obtain an application form.

Once complete, please print and forward to the address below, along with a copy of your resume and two professional references (phone numbers are sufficient):

The Office for Justice Initiatives
111 Centre Street, Rm. 1155
New York, NY 10013
Attn: Guardian Ad Litem Program Coordinator
Denise Colon, Esq., MSW

What happens once the application is submitted?
Applications are saved upon receipt. As the training date approaches, the GAL Program Coordinator will contact applicants whose background and experience are relevant to the role of a GAL to schedule an interview. In order to be placed on the NYC Housing Court GAL list, all prospective GALs must successfully interview and complete the established training as well as a background and reference check.

Questions about the GAL training:

When is the GAL training offered?
The Program offers FREE live training to prospective GALs twice a year. One training is “live” and the other is a video replay of the former one.

Can I obtain CLE credit for attending the training?
Yes. Up to 5 CLE credits are offered, including one credit hour of ethics.
*Note: Attorneys admitted to the NY State Bar for less than two years cannot receive CLE credit for watching video replays, but are welcome to participate in the GAL Program.

What does the training entail?
The GAL training seeks to provide prospective GALs with a thorough understanding of the role of a GAL in Housing Court, common reasons why a litigant may be appointed a GAL, engagement strategies, expected advocacy efforts and resources. The course is taught by a panel of experts in the fields of legal and social work advocacy and landlord-tenant law.

What should I expect after completing the training?
After completing the training, the Guardian Ad Litem Program’s Coordinator will begin the process of contacting references.

What happens if there is a problem reaching one of my references?
If your references are unresponsive, you will be asked to provide alternate references. Failure to provide viable references will result in not being placed on the GAL list.

How long should it take from the time I take the training before I am placed on the GAL list?
Barring any problems concerning references, you should expect to be placed on the list within a month from the time that you complete the training.

Questions about cases:

How do I get a case?
Once you are placed on the list, your name will be provided to all Supervising Judges, according to the boroughs you listed on the GAL application. At that point, your name may be selected randomly in response to a judicial request for a GAL. If your name is then chosen, the Judge’s Court Attorney will contact you to see if you are available for appointment.

If my name is selected and provided to a particular Judge, must that Judge choose me to serve as the appointed GAL on a case?
No. Judges are provided with the names of 2-3 GALs in response to their request for names. It is up to the discretion of the Judge who to select.

Do I have to take a case that I am offered?
No. It up to you whether or not to accept a GAL appointment. You should make this decision based upon your current caseload, availability, and your comfort level, given the facts of the case.

Should I return the Judge’s call, even if I do not intend to take the case?
Yes. You should always return the Judge's call, even if you know that you cannot take the case. This enables the Court to secure a GAL more quickly. It also helps you to develop a favorable reputation with the Court.

Questions about getting started:

What should I do once I accept a case?
Once you accept a case, you must submit a GAL Consent Form to the Court, obtain a copy of the GAL Order of Appointment, and arrange to see and copy relevant documents in the impaired litigant’s file.
Please note that you will need a copy of the GAL Order of Appointment to confirm your appointment when advocating on behalf of the impaired litigant and when submitting for payment. Some GALs choose to pick up the GAL Order of Appointment when coming to the Court to view the file. This remains entirely up to the GAL and the Court.

What documents should I be making copies of when reviewing the court file?
Generally speaking, GALs should make copies of the Notice of Petition and Petition, the lease, past stipulations and any other documents that are relevant to the Court case.

Where can I make copies?
GALs can make copies of the file in any of the Housing Court’s Help Centers. They should introduce themselves as GALs to the Help Center Court Attorneys who work there and ask if it is a good time to make copies. Copies should be limited to relevant documents only.

Questions about GAL duties:

Once appointed, how do I initiate contact with the impaired litigant I was appointed to?
Once appointed, it is suggested that you write a letter of introduction to the impaired litigant you were appointed to. In that letter you should explain that you have been appointed by a Housing Court Judge to be their Guardian Ad Litem, what this means, and the fact that you will seeking to meet with them on a particular date in order to gain a better understanding of their case.

For a sample letter, click sample GAL letter of introduction. Please note that this letter is just a sample.

Should I make efforts to meet with every impaired litigant I am appointed to advocate on behalf of?
Yes. The expectation is that, upon being appointed to a case, you will arrange to meet with the impaired litigant in question. Depending on the type of case and whether there are any safety concerns, a meeting can take place either in the impaired litigant’s home or in the courthouse.

GALs have also been known to coordinate home visits with the assigned APS caseworker. Either way, you should make every effort to make contact with the impaired litigant in order to gain an understanding of their thoughts on their Housing Court case.

What if I am unable to establish contact with the impaired litigant?
If you are unable to establish contact with the impaired litigant, you should make the judge assigned to the case aware of your efforts and how they have been unsuccessful to date.

What is the GAL Case Summary?
The GAL Case Summary is a form which allows GALs to document their assessment of a case, advocacy efforts, and plan of action for a particular impaired litigant. For more information on the GAL Case Summary, click on Case Summary Directive. Click GAL Case Summary template for a copy of this form.

Do I have to complete a GAL Case Summary for each case?
Yes. Completion of this form is required. In fact, a Judge may ask a GAL provide their completed form at any time.

Once a case has come to resolution, how long should I keep the GAL Case Summary?
You should keep this form for 2-3 years after the case has come to resolution.

What if I am sick, stuck in traffic, or otherwise unable to make a court appearance in time or altogether?
If you cannot make a Court appearance or anticipate being late, it is important that you contact the Court and make the Judge’s Court Attorney aware. Be mindful of the default time.

Failure to make the Court aware of your inability to appear, may place the impaired litigant you are appointed to at risk for eviction and may also result in disciplinary action taken against you.

Can I grant access to the impaired litigant’s apartment when they are refusing to do so and such access is needed in order to perform a heavy duty cleaning/necessary repairs?
No. Under no circumstances should a GAL grant access to the impaired litigant’s apartment. Under the law, a GAL has no power to do so. Only an Article 81 Guardian can grant such access.

Can I sign papers on behalf of the impaired litigant in order to reinstate benefits needed to resolve a case?
No. GALs do not have the legal authority to sign on behalf of the impaired litigant to secure benefits. Only an Article 81 Guardian can do so.

What if the petitioner’s attorney wants to settle the case by the impaired litigant vacating the apartment?
You may make a recommendation to the Judge but cannot agree to this by way of stip. The issue should go before the Judge.

Are there other issues that I should not agree to by way of stip?
Similarly, a GAL should not agree to: removing pet or not allowing a family member to remain in the apartment by way of stip. Although a GAL may make a recommendation to the Judge, all these issues should go before the Court.

Is the impaired litigant entitled to obtain an attorney?

What if conflict arises between the GAL and the attorney?
Both parties should present their concerns to the Judge. The Judge will decide who will prevail.

Whose responsibility is it to seek a One Shot Deal, the GAL’s or the APS caseworker’s?
If the case is known to APS, it is the responsibility of the APS caseworker to apply for a One Shot Deal. However, APS caseworkers will often seek the help of a GAL in trying to secure the documents necessary to ensure that the grant is awarded. So, it is important that the GAL and caseworker work as a team.

Should I be contacting the APS caseworker for an update on the status of an Article 81 application or One Shot Deal grant?
No. APS caseworkers are often in the field and hard to reach. Instead, APS requires GALs to contact specific executives in each borough when seeking information on a case. To obtain a copy of the APS Contact list, please email

Questions about APS:

Who I can speak with at APS regarding a particular case ?
GALs must use the APS Contact list provided. They can contact any one of the designated executives listed according to the borough where the impaired litigant resides.

What can I do if I am having trouble reaching an APS caseworker?
Instead of attempting to reach an APS caseworker, GALs seeking to obtain information about a case must contact one of the executives listed on the APS Contact list.

Where can I obtain a copy of the APS Contact list?
GALs are provided with an APS Contact list when they attend the initial training. Thereafter the GAL Program emails updated lists, as needed. GALs can also request a copy by emailing

Questions concerning GAL workload:

What if my availability to volunteer for a particular borough changes?
If your ability to accept appointments from a particular borough changes, you must contact either the GAL Program Coordinator or the GAL Program Coordinator's Assistant. Either person will be able to update your availability in the GAL Program’s central database.

What should I do if I am not able to take cases for a short period of time but wish to remain on the list?
If you are unable to accept any more cases for a short period of time (you are going on an extended vacation, have too many cases, are hospitalized, etc.) you must contact the GAL Program Coordinator or the GAL Program Coordinator's Assistant. Your name will then be placed on "hold" status for the specific period requested

What does it mean if I am placed on "hold?"
“Hold” means that your name will no longer be provided in response to GAL judicial requests for a specified period of time.

Questions about no longer being a GAL:

What should I do if I no longer want to be a GAL?
If you decide that you no longer want to participate in the GAL Program, it is very important that you immediately contact the GAL Program Coordinator or the Coordinator’s Assistant. Your name will then be removed from the GAL list. It is important to note that you remain responsible for seeing any cases for which you are the appointed GAL to resolution, even if you no longer wish to be on the GAL list. If this presents a problem, you can request that the judge relieve you from the case. This request must be done in person, either via Order to Show Cause or during the next court appearance.

Do I remain responsible for my open cases once I request to be removed from the list?
Yes. Even if you request to be removed from the GAL list, you still remain responsible for all pending cases. This means that you must see all your pending cases to resolution.

What should I do if I wish to be relieved from a case?
In circumstances where you wish to be relieved from a case, you must ask the Judge assigned to the case for permission. It is always up to the discretion of the Judge whether or not to grant your request.

What if the Judge does not grant me permission to be relieved from a case?
It is up to the discretion of the Judge whether or not to grant a request to be relieved from a case. If the Judge denies your request, you must continue to fulfill your responsibilities as the appointed GAL and see the case to resolution.

If I wish to be relieved, can I just send the Judge a letter or leave them a voice mail? No. It is important that you appear in Court and make the request in person. You can either wait for the next court date or file an Order to Show Cause (OSC) stating that you wish to be relieved. If signed, that would enable you to make the request at a future date, in person.

Questions about receiving payment for cases:

Under what circumstances should I expect to receive payment for my work on a GAL case?
The NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA) agrees to compensate GALs pursuant to a Court order when HRA petitions the Court for the appointment of a GAL for an APS client. Compensation is also rendered when the Court makes a sua sponte appointment for an impaired litigant who is an existing APS client or later becomes an APS client during the course of the GAL’s appointment in the Housing Court proceeding.

Cases where APS is not involved are considered pro-bono and, as such, receive no compensation. For more information on how to secure payment, see Payment Procedure and Forms.

What should I do if I have not received payment for services rendered as a GAL, even though I submitted all the necessary paperwork quite some time ago?
If you have been waiting for payment for more than a month, you should email your concern to

Questions regarding indemnification

What happens if the impaired litigant I am appointed to advocate on behalf of sues me?
In general, you are entitled to defense and indemnification by the State of New York if the impaired litigant you are appointed to sues you.
The State of New York, Office of the Attorney General issued a Formal Opinion Letter providing for defense and indemnification of New York City Civil Court, Housing Part GALs who are sued by an impaired litigant whom they were appointed to advocate on behalf of and the GAL received no compensation.
Compensated GALs are also entitled to defense and indemnification by the State of New York, should an impaired litigant ever sue them, as per Public Officers Law Section 17 (1) (w).

For more details, please read Public Officers Law Section 17 in its entirety or email