What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Latrice Knighton is a member of the Sterling Law Offices partner team and an award-winning divorce attorney, life coach, and speaker. She helps clients resolve their problems by using legal techniques and smart tactics learned through decades of experience as well as helping clients by offering the best practical advice.

by | Jan 17, 2019

Every parent going through divorce and dealing with child custody wants what seems to be the best for their child.

Whatever the circumstances might be, the Guardian Ad Litem looks into the family situation and advise the court on things like where the child should live, if there is possible abuse from parents, and/or what contact the child should have with the parent. Guardian Ad Litem's can be lawyers or a kind of mental health professional who have special training who have the main goal of having the best interest of the child.

Depending on the court order, their jobs can be broad. So to provide some clarity about what to expect we've created this post for you.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)’s role?

The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)’s role is to represent the best interests of the children as determined by the GAL through investigation.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem’s objective?

The GAL will investigate the facts, take part in negotiations, and take a position in court on legal custody and placement. It is also involved in the financial issues of a case when those issues affect the children, such as child support and child expenses.

What are some “Must Know” Facts about a Guardian Ad Litem?

  • The GAL does not have any of the rights or duties of a parent.
  • Although the GAL may be incorrectly called the “children’s attorney,” the GAL’s role is to advocate for the best interests of the children, even though it may be contrary to what the child wants.
  • A GAL becomes involved when parents cannot agree on custody or placement, the court must appoint a GAL. The parents must first try mediation to reach an agreement, unless the court waives the requirement.
  • A GAL is appointed by a family court commissioner or judge, usually upon request of one of the parents.
  • The GAL investigates facts that are relevant to the issues in your case. Much of the investigation is called “informal discovery,” which is conducted through interviews with each parent, the child or other people with significant information.
  • You may also be asked to sign a release authorizing the GAL to check relevant records, such as school, medical, or mental health records.
  • The GAL may use “formal discovery” to assist in the investigation, including interrogatories, requests for document production, or conducting depositions.
  • The GAL generally will give the parents and/or attorneys a preliminary summary of what the GAL will present to the judge. The input could change depending on additional evidence or facts that are uncovered.
  • Generally, the parents’ attorneys will discuss the GAL’s preliminary recommendations with their clients. If the parents cannot agree, the case is prepared for trial before a judge, who will consider the evidence presented and make the final decision.
  • The GAL serves in a case until either the parents reach a written agreement resolving the issues and the judge approves it, or there is a hearing and the judge decides the case.

Who pays for a Guardian Ad Litem?

The judge decides who pays for the Guardian Ad Litem’s service. Generally, each parent is responsible for one-half of the GAL’s total costs, including the GAL’s legal fees and investigation costs, such as tests and experts.

References: Guardian ad litem: appointment, duties, & termination


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