Who is a Guardian Ad Litem and How do they Affect My Custody Case?

Essentially, a guardian ad litem is a court-appointed attorney who represents the interests of a minor in legal battles, such as custody or divorce cases.

In divorce cases where there are differences of opinion about child custody or parental rights, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL).

Guardians ad litem are individuals who represent the interests of children in cases where the parents can’t agree over certain issues.

Essentially, think of the GAL as a court-appointed lawyer who represents your child and makes suggestions to the judge about how the case should move forward.

In this article, we’ll discuss exactly who a guardian ad litem is and how they can affect your custody battle.

Who is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Caring mother and daughter sitting on the sofa

As noted above, a guardian ad litem is a person appointed by the court to advocate for the interests of a child (or disabled adult).

“Guardian ad litem” as a term literally means “guardian for the case.”

Essentially, just as the parents are the child’s guardians in the real world, the guardian ad litem is their guardian in the legal world.

They make sure the child’s interests are taken care of.

For this reason, it’s very important to note that the guardian ad litem does not work for either of the parents.

Instead, their sole purpose is to try to understand the details of the case, then make a recommendation about what is best for the child.

In this way, they might make recommendations that are different from what you want, and you should essentially treat them as an opposing attorney.

Additionally, you should note that the court determines whether or not a guardian ad litem is actually needed for a case or not. While each party can request it, the court makes the final decision in the matter.

Finally, if a guardian ad litem is assigned to a case the parents must pay whatever fees are required at the end of the case.

However, this only happens if the parents can actually pay for all the costs associated with the guardian.

How does a GAL Collect Information?

The guardian ad litem collects lots of information before they make a recommendation.

They have access to all court documents, and can even request school and health records.

Additionally, the GAL will interview both the parents and the child before making their recommendation.

They may even do home visits and talk to other important adults in the child’s life such as teachers or religious leaders.

How does a GAL Give their Recommendation?

At the end of their investigation, the guardian ad litem writes up a recommendation in a report to submit to the court.

They’ll include all the research they’ve done, along with the reasons for their recommendations.

The court will take the GAL’s report under serious consideration. However, the final decision is up to the judge.

In other words, the guardian ad litem’s recommendation is not the last word, just a very important piece to the puzzle.

How Can a Guardian Ad Litem Affect my Custody Case?

Father And Young Son Reading Book Together At Home

The guardian ad litem’s report will include recommendations about custody and visitation rights for both parents.

They may also recommend actions that a parent must take in order to gain custody or visitation rights.

This can include drug and alcohol treatment programs as well as things like parenting classes.

Although their recommendation is not the final decision, the judge will usually follow the guardian ad litem’s advice in their judgment.

How can a GAL Help my Case?

You may have concerns about your child staying with the other parent.

Perhaps you feel that the court needs to understand more about your case and the circumstances surrounding it.

A guardian ad litem can be a big help in making sure the court understands the details in your case.

If you can convince them that giving you custody is in the best interests of the child, your chances of success will improve significantly.

How to Communicate with a Guardian Ad Litem

Divorces can be emotional and hurtful. Since the guardian ad litem is working for your child, you may think that they’re on your side.

For this reason, you might ask them for advice or updates about the case.

This is a very bad idea.

Sharing information about your marital relationship with your child’s GAL isn’t a good idea.

Complaining about your spouse, especially in front of your child, will only hurt you in court.

The guardian ad litem only needs to understand that you can provide a safe, prosperous and loving environment for your child.

Anything else only runs the risk of hurting your case. 

At the same time, you’ll want to be as open and honest as possible when answering questions.

Let the guardian ad litem get to know you as a parent and be forthcoming when the GAL brings up questions or concerns.

You want their view of you and your child to be accurate, so they can make the best recommendations.

Conclusion

Mother helping her little child with homework

A guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to advocate for a child or an adult with a disability.

The guardian ad litem is an impartial party who gathers information and then makes a recommendation with only the best interest of the child in mind.

They will make recommendations about custody and visitation, as well as suggestions for actions a parent must take before receiving custody.

While the guardian ad litem’s recommendation isn’t the last word, the judge usually follows their advice.

If you feel that the court needs to know more information about your case before they can make the right decision about custody or visitation rights, having a guardian ad litem can help.

However, you should make sure that you also hire a lawyer to represent you and your interests in the case.

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