NEXT FRIEND

NEXT FRIEND

NEXT FRIEND

NEXT FRIEND

An individual who acts on behalf of another individual who does not have the legal capacity to act on his or her own behalf.

The individual in whose name a minor’s lawsuit is brought, or who appears in court to represent such minor’s interest. The French term prochein ami has been used to designate such an individual, but the term GUARDIAN AD LITEM is more commonly used.

At COMMON LAW, when an individual was
unable to look after his or her own interests or
manage his or her lawsuit, the court would
appoint a person to represent that individual’s
legal interests. In court terminology this per-
son was called a next friend, which is derived
from the French term prochein ami. Individuals
requiring a next friend included minors, per-
sons who were mentally ill or mentally retarded,
infirm or senile persons, and others whose
disabilities prevented them from managing
their affairs.
State statutes now set the qualifications and
duties of a person who acts as a next friend, but
these laws more commonly designate this per-
son a guardian ad litem, or a court-appointed
special advocate. Regardless of the designation,
this person’s responsibilities are now confined to
representing a minor or incompetent person in
a lawsuit or court proceeding. At common law, a
next friend represented a plaintiff, whereas a
guardian ad litem represented a defendant. This
distinction has been removed in modern law.
A next friend is not a party to a lawsuit but
an officer of the court.When the lawsuit is con-
cluded, the next friend’s duty ends. The next
friend has no right to control the property of the
person she or he represents or to assume cus-
tody of that person. These rights may be given to
a person designated by a court as a minor’s or
incompetent person’s guardian.
Guardians ad litem are commonly used in
family and juvenile courts, where the best inter-
ests of the child require an independent, neutral
person to safeguard the child’s rights. The
increased number of these representatives has
led states to develop training and certification
programs for individuals wishing to serve as
next friends or guardians ad litem. Though
attorneys also may represent juveniles, next
friends provide valuable assistance to the courts.
CROSS-REFERENCES

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