Divorce Law and GALs
The purpose of a Guardian ad Litem is to represent the interests of the children of divorcing parents. Guardian ad litems also serve the interests of children in other cases involving custody disputes such as terminating parental rights and child protective orders.
GALs are tasked with doing what is in the best interest of the children he represents. Sometimes that means making recommendations that one parent have primary custody, that the parents share joint custody, that one parent have supervised parent time, etc. Judges typically give great weight to the guardian ad litem’s opinion on the issue of custody, more so than the opinion of either attorney representing the divorcing parties. This is because some parents can lose sight of what is best for the children because he or she is considering their own interests. The GAL can generally be more removed from the process because the only concern is what is best for the children.
How It Works
Either party can request that a guardian ad litem be appointed to represent the children. A commissioner will appoint the GAL if there are allegations of physical abuse or substance abuse by one or both of the divorcing parties. The parties are then responsible to cover the GAL’s fees, for private GALs. Public GALs are paid out of the state budget set aside for that purpose.
When the GAL is appointed the parents are responsible to contact him and schedule a time to meet with him. The children also meet with the GAL. From his interviews with the parents, the children, and anyone else appropriate such as therapists and other family members, he will make recommendations to the commissioner and judge of what he thinks should happen with custody.
Highly Contested Custody Issues Often Require a GAL
If you’re facing a highly contested divorce with complex custody issues you may have to have a guardian ad litem appointed for your children. In such cases you will need competent legal counsel to direct you. Call our law firm for a free consultation to discover how we can help you through the process.