A Guardian ad Litem (often referred to as a “GAL”) is appointed by the domestic or juvenile Court to represent the best interest of the child(ren) in a custody case. To become a GAL, one must fulfill certain requisites, such as special training, and in most counties a GAL must be an attorney.
A GAL can be appointed upon a motion made by either party or upon the Court’s own determination that a GAL is necessary. It is important to keep in mind when dealing with a guardian ad litem that the GAL represents the children’s best interest, not either party. As such, the GAL should not be providing legal advice to either party or assisting either party with the case. It is necessary for the GAL to remain unbiased in the investigation and to focus on the best interest of the children. However, it is important for parties to keep in mind that it is the GAL’s duty to provide the Court with a recommendation as to custody and parenting time and, as such, the GAL will have to make a determination as to the parties’ fitness and ability to parent. This can often lead to one party feeling that the GAL did not perform their duty properly, so it is important for the parties to understand the GAL’s job.
It is the guardian ad litem’s job to investigate the issues before the Court as they relate to the children and report back to the Court the findings and, ultimately, make a recommendation as to the resolution of the issues. The GAL’s investigation will include meeting with the parties, making home visits, observing the parties with the children, speaking to the children (where age appropriate), and speaking to teachers, family members, professionals (i.e., doctors, counselors, etc.), and others who can offer insight into the best interest of the children. Based upon the guardian ad litem’s observations and findings, the GAL will make a recommendation to the Court as to custody and a parenting schedule. Although the GAL’s recommendation typically carries significant weight with the Court, it is not adopted by the Court without consideration of all the evidence presented.
If you are involved in a custody case, you may need to consider if a guardian ad litem would be helpful to your case. Call us today at (614) 567-3031 to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys to discuss your options.