Monica Y. Ybarra, Phillips Murrah Family Law Attorney, helped orchestrate the 1st Annual Champions for Children conference for the Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute on Oct. 27.
A guardian ad litem is often an integral part of a family law case involving custody, visitation, and other child-related issues. However, it is often an added expense that the parties, especially low-income families, cannot afford, Ybarra said.
“I became involved when Sharon Byers, Executive Director for the Institute, asked me to assist her in coming up with ideas for CLEs,” Ybarra said. “One thing led to another, and the vision for a GAL-specific conference came into focus.
“This has never been done in Oklahoma, and we weren’t sure how it would be received; however, it was a huge success.”
The Oklahoma Guardian Ad Litem Institute was formed to provide this essential service to low-income families. It is a non-profit organization, and one of the ways the Institute raises money is to put on CLEs, or Continuing Legal Education seminars.
“This was one of our most successful CLEs based on the number of attendees,” Byers said. “We are grateful for Monica for that and the Firm for supporting this social event.
“Without people like Monica and Phillips Murrah, we wouldn’t be able to sustain and provide services for the children of Oklahoma and families that can’t afford it.”
More than 40 attorneys and law students interested in becoming GALs attended the first annual conference.
“I gave a presentation, along with Reagan Barham, another Oklahoma City attorney, called ‘Know your Judge: Judicial Expectations and Preferences’ in which we educated attendees about what judges want to see in a GAL’s representation,” Ybarra said.
Nicholle Jones Edwards, Director and Member of the Firm’s Family Law Practice Group, also presented, showing a cross examination of a GAL in a mock trial setting.
“Monica was instrumental in getting it done,” Byers said. “She is a workhorse and went above and beyond to organize the whole thing. Both Nikki and Monica did an excellent job and had valuable information to contribute, and we are very appreciative.”