A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is someone designated by a judge to investigate and represent the best interests of a child in the context of a lawsuit.
A guardian is someone who helps and protects the best interests of someone else. Ad litem means “for the lawsuit.” Frequently, a guardian ad litem is assigned in cases involving neglect or abuse, but they can also be utilized in contested child custody cases.
Why would a Guardian Ad Litem be necessary?
“During a contentious divorce, it is unfortunately not uncommon for both parties to be so caught up in their own struggles and battles against one another that the well-being of any children loses its place as the top priority. In the emotionally heated conflicts of divorce, it is easy to see how some parents may not be able to properly judge what is best for their kids. While pushing a child’s best interest lower may not be intentional, the court has a system in place to ensure a child’s welfare is always protected: The ability to appoint legal representation to look out for the child’s best interests in the form of a Guardian Ad Litem,” explains Mat Camp for Men’s Divorce.
Child custody in divorce is often an emotional subject. Contact The Alabama Law Group today to schedule a consultation with a qualified, compassionate attorney to advise you – especially if the courts decide to appoint a guardian ad litem.
What does a Guardian Ad Litem do?
The role of a GAL is dependent on the judge’s order and what the judge wants them to do, but typically the guardian ad litem conducts an independent investigation for the purpose of reporting to the court and making recommendations about custody and visitation. The judge is not obligated to carry out the recommendations, but the report is taken very seriously.
GALs will often talk to the child, parents, and other caregivers. They may also speak with counselors, teachers, other family members, friends, court services, and child protection workers. While the guardian ad litem will consider the child’s perspective, they are not required to make recommendations in favor of the child’s preferences if they feel it would not be in the child’s best interest.
According to the Alabama Guidelines for Guardians Ad Litem in Dependency and Termination-of-Parental-Rights Cases in Juvenile Courts, “A guardian ad litem shall be guided by the best interests of the child and shall exercise independent judgment on behalf of the child in all relevant matters. A lawyer appointed as a guardian ad litem for a child is an officer of the court, appointed to protect the child’s interest without being bound by the child’s expressed preferences.”
How should I prepare for the investigation?
The exact method for conducting the investigation varies by the individual guardian and by state, but you should be prepared to share the significant details of your relationship with your ex and with your child. The guardian ad litem does not need to know every tiny detail, but may be interested in things such as a brief history, why custody arrangements cannot be agreed upon, parenting styles, the child’s daily routine, and a list of other people who may have insight into your child’s best interests. The guardian ad litem may also visit your home.
Legal Aid of West Virginia lists these examples of what the guardian ad litem could need from you:
- School/daycare records
- Medical records
- Child Protective Services reports
- Pay stubs
- Counseling/therapy records
- Criminal records
- Records of court cases involving anyone living in the house, etc.
The best thing you can do is be prepared, be honest, and consult with your attorney. Your family law attorney will know the plan and strategy and will be your best resource for winning your child custody case.
In the Huntsville and northern Alabama area, The Alabama Law Group can help you win. We specialize in divorce, military divorce, child custody, and child support. Be prepared by having the best attorney on your side. Contact The Alabama Law Group today!