When child custody is in dispute, the court may assign a guardian ad litem (GAL) to your case. This position carries a lot of power, and their opinion is often held in high regard by the judge. To learn more, read on.
What to Know About the Guardian Ad Litem
In some cases, this person is an attorney or a social worker. They are usually trained, regardless of their background, in child custody law and how to make observations for the court. The GAL is appointed to your child and their job is to work to ensure that decisions affecting the child are in the child's best interests. The GAL will be investigating things for a limited time only and their powers expire according to the court order.
What Will Happen Next?
The GAL will be observing the way your child interacts with each parent in various situations. You might find the GAL attending sporting events, school events, doctor's appointments, and more. They will also interview the child privately. If the child is old enough, they may be asked for their opinion on the child custody dispute. A GAL, to get the complete picture, may also interview teachers, relatives, and others about the child and the parents. In some states, the GAL is permitted to question parties in court about issues discovered during the evaluation. Once they have completed their evaluation, they will report directly to the judge with their findings.
Working With a GAL
The GAL is not on anyone's "side" so you should not expect to get friendly with them—they must remain neutral. However, you can participate by doing the following:
- Share information with the GAL that is pertinent. However, avoid passing along hearsay or gossip about your spouse.
- Be always honest and open with the GAL. If you don't, it could backfire on you.
- Don't restrict access to your child. They are entitled (and required) to spend time with the child.
- Don't coach your child to say certain things to the GAL. These professionals can spot such manipulations and it won't go well for you if you are found out.
- If you don't agree with the way the GAL is conducting the evaluation, speak to your family law attorney at once. You may have the right to have the GAL replaced. Though it varies by state, you should be ready to show good cause for the change.
Speak to your attorney to find out more.