FAQ: In a divorce or family law action, what is a Guardian ad Litem and will a GAL help my case?
Clients often ask us to explain the role of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), as the use of GALs has recently become more common in divorce litigation. In the divorce and family law context, a Guardian ad Litem is a court-appointed neutral person whose role it is to represent a child’s best interests. In doing so, the GAL will evaluate or investigate issues, allegations, and circumstances related to a child in a divorce, paternity, custody, modification, or other family law action. The Guardian ad Litem may interview the parties, visit their homes, visit the child’s school, speak with doctors and teachers, and use other resources to assist the GAL in making a recommendation. After a thorough investigation, the Guardian ad Litem files a report with the Court, explaining what was found and what is being recommended in the best interests of the child. The Guardian ad Litem’s report can play a strong role in determining how a Judge will rule or what a party may agree to.
The Guardian ad Litem does not “work for” either parent or attorney involved in the case, but instead is brought on board solely to represent a child’s best interests. In divorce and custody cases, GALs often charge hourly fees, which are typically apportioned by agreement or Court Order, depending on the parties’ financial circumstances, allegations, and other factors.
Guardian ad Litems are often helpful in divorce or custody cases where there have been allegations of abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, substance abuse, or other circumstances where a child is put in danger. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether your case requires a Guardian ad Litem and, if so, help get one appointed to look out for your child’s best interests.
The appointment of a Guardian ad Litem is not always appropriate, and there are many other professional resources an experienced family lawyer may utilize, depending on your unique situation. For example, referrals to a Parent Coordinator, Licensed Therapist, or Co-parenting software such as the “Our Family Wizard Program” are just a few of many tools which may be helpful depending upon the family’s unique circumstances, goals, priorities and budget.
This is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied on to make any legal or other major decisions. If you have specific questions or inquiries regarding any of this information, you should consult with an attorney licensed in your state.