GUARDIAN AD LITEM
What is a Guardian Ad Litem in Child Custody?
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is usually an attorney appointed by the Court to represent the interest of the child at issue in custody litigation. It is important to remember that the GAL is the attorney for the child and not the parent.
When Should A Guardian Ad Litem Should Be Considered?
There are a number of cases where a guardian ad litem should be considered including abuse and neglect cases, cases involving children over the age of fourteen, cases where sexual abuse has been alleged against one parent or someone regularly found in one parent’s home, cases where the child may suffer from physical or mental medical conditions, high conflict cases and cases where a child’s interests may be different than the parent’s interests.
Who Pays For The Guardian Ad Litem and how much will it cost?
The law provides that the GAL is entitled to reasonable compensation from the child or the child’s estate. Usually though, if a parent is asking for a GAL to be appointed in a case, it will be that parent’s responsibility to pay for the GAL. The Court can order that the parties split the cost of the GAL and the law provides that a person has unnecessarily or unreasonably caused the appointment of a guardian ad litem will be responsible for paying the entire cost. Costs for a GAL vary depending upon the complexity of the case and the role of the GAL.
What Will the GAL Do In The Case?
You should expect that the GAL will review all of the pleadings that have been filed in the case. The GAL will likely also meet with the child, the GAL’s client, to talk about the case and the child’s wishes. The GAL may also meet with the parents involved in the case to get each parents’ side of the story. GALs may also meet with teachers, other family members, friends and others to determine what is going on with the child. Essentially, the GAL is performing an investigation on behalf of the child and the GAL will report back to the court about the child’s desires and the GAL’s observations and opinions.
Will the GAL write a report?
Sometimes a GAL will write a report for the court and sometimes, the GAL will simply attend a court hearing and tell the judge directly what the GAL’s investigation has determined. In dependency court, it is very unusual for a GAL to write a report. In custody cases and divorce matters, many times a GAL will write a report so that the judge knows the GAL’s position in detail.
If you are facing a particularly complicated custody matter or divorce or if you are involved in a CPS action, you may want to consider asking the judge to appoint a GAL for your children. For more information about divorce, custody and CPS cases please contact our office.