Guardians Ad Litem (GALs) can be an important resource for helping a Court determine a custody arrangement that serves the best interest of the child. A GAL can be appointed by the Court on its own or upon motion that is made by one of the parent’s or parent’s attorney. GALs can be appointed for infants, young children, teenagers.
It is important if a GAL is appointed in a case that you understand the scope of what the GAL intends to do. In the past, GALs had the time, resources, and ability to do extensive factfinding, multiple visits with children and parents and third parties, school visits, etc. Now, with the number of custody cases increasing, the extensive scope of GAL representation has had to change. There are some cases where the mental health of a parent or the health of a child is an issue; there are some cases where educational challenges faced by a child need to be considered; some cases involve parents who live in different states; and there are many other scenarios that could present issues in a case. A Court may perceive a GAL’s role in case to be focused on a specific issue.
Try to understand why the Court appointed the GAL; know what you want the GAL to consider for facts and share the facts or sources of facts for the GAL. Understand whether the GAL may or may not do a home visit, whether the GAL may or may not speak with the third parties. Not every case warrants the same level of fact finding; therefore, you need to understand why the GAL may or may not do something that you think is important as the parent of the child.
Remember, the GAL is there to represent the best interest of the child. The GAL is not there to take sides of one parent or another.