A Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) is an individual appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child in a juvenile or family court proceeding. The GAL appointment is either Mandatory or Permissive.
The Guardian ad Litem is not the child’s attorney nor do they provide any direct services to the child. Instead, the GAL’s role is to conduct an independent investigation to determine relevant facts about the child and the family.
In conducting their investigation, the GAL will observe the children with their parents and/or other significant people in their lives. The Guardian ad Litem will also conduct interviews with the parties, the children, if it’s deemed appropriate based on the child’s age and other factors, with family members and friends of each party, and any other professionals involved in the case including doctors, therapists, teachers, school counselors, social workers, etc.
The GAL will review any and all records related to the case. This could include medical, psychological or school records, social service or police reports, court pleadings, and communications between the parties.
The GAL does not make decisions for the child but the GAL will make recommendations to the court about what the GAL believes is in the best interests of the child based on the information discovered in the GAL’s investigation. The court relies on the reports from the Guardian ad Litem when determining the outcome of a case and issuing court orders related to the children. During the time the GAL is appointed in a case, they will monitor court ordered plans to ensure that the child’s best interests are being met.
The court is required to appoint a Guardian ad Litem in a family law case in which the court has reason to believe that the minor child is a victim of domestic child abuse or neglect. The GAL is a spokesperson who will advocate for the best interests of the child when the court is making decisions about the child’s future.
In cases where there is no domestic abuse or neglect, the court is not required to appoint a Guardian ad Litem. However, the law does allow the court to appoint a GAL in a family law matter to advise the court with respect to custody and parenting time issues.
Potential situations where the appointment of a GAL would be particularly helpful are cases where a child may feel torn between his parents or is being coached by one or both parents. Rather than being put in a position of having to choose one parent over the other, the GAL will ensure that the best interests of the children are recommended to the court relative to custody and the parenting time schedule.
Custody disputes are frequently the greatest challenge in a divorce—make sure that your legal representation represents the best interests of you and your children. At Clausen & Hassan, our lawyers pride themselves on how they work closely with our clients through the entirety of the divorce process. Please reach out today for your free consultation—you can call our office at (651) 647-0087 or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.