Judges often appoint a Guardian ad litem (GAL) in family law cases involving child custody. If you find yourself in that situation, it is important to understand the role of the GAL and effective ways to communicate with them.
What is a GUARDIAN AD LITEM?
A GAL is someone (usually an attorney) appointed by the Court to represent the child or children in a legal dispute concerning the children’s custody or welfare.
Who does the GUARDIAN AD LITEM represent?
The GAL represents neither party in the dispute, but instead represents the best interests of the children. The court appoints the GAL to have reasoned advice from someone who does not owe allegiance to either party. The GAL can be objective in investigating and recommending the best outcome for the child.
What does the GUARDIAN AD LITEM do?
A GAL will meet with each party and will visit the children at their home or homes. The GAL will interview witnesses, observe how parents interact with the children, review court filings, speak with school and medical personnel, and obtain relevant records. A GAL can make recommendations for mental health or substance abuse evaluations that may assist the Court in resolving issues the parties disagree on. The GAL is able to participate in hearings and mediations. After their investigation, the GAL will provide their findings to the court and may make recommendations as to the outcome of the case.
How should I interact with the GUARDIAN AD LITEM?
The GAL will likely ask you to sign releases allowing him or her to communicate with healthcare providers, the school or daycare, and others. The GAL may ask for other documents and for the contact information for other witnesses you with him or her to interview. Responding to these requests as quickly and completely as possible will help your case proceed more quickly and at less expense to you in the long run. Also, remember that the GAL has the ear of the court: it is always important to be courteous to the GAL.
Finally, while it is important to be as forthcoming as possible, there is no confidentiality between you and the GAL. If you have questions about what should be shared with the Guardian ad litem, you should consult your attorney.