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 is appointed by a court order which may include an order regarding payment of the GAL’s fees. If you are receiving public assistance or your income falls below the federal poverty line, you are not required to pay the GAL’s fees.
A GAL is appointed in one of two ways:
- Required appointment: The court is required to appoint a GAL 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. Minn. Stat. § 518.165 subd. 2.
- Permissive appointment: In cases where there is not domestic abuse or neglect, the court is not required to appoint a GAL. 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.—Minn. Stat. § 518.165 subd. 1.
The GAL is not the child’s attorney nor does the GAL provide any direct services to the child. Instead, the GAL 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 GAL 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 GAL 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.
What can you do?
Whether you are seeking the appointment of a GAL by the court or have one already appointed, you need someone with experience by your side as you move forward. Please, contact our office at 651-647-0087 or reach out via our online contact form.