If you are involved in a highly disputed custody case, there will be many people you may interact with during your court case. While you may be familiar with the roles of the attorneys, your child may also be assigned a Guardian ad litem. Understanding what a Guardian ad litem (GAL) is and their role in your case will help you be more at ease interacting with this person.
What Is A Guardian Ad Litem?
A Guardian ad litem is a court-appointed special advocate designed to figure out and advocate in your child’s best interest. Guardian ad litems usually are a specially trained attorney who is familiar with the family law process.
These advocates are designed to be impartial and will perform an independent investigation. Once their investigation is complete, they will provide a full report of their findings to the court. They are often viewed as the eyes and ears of the court.
What Will Be Included In The Guardian Ad Litem’s Investigation?
A guardian ad litem has a vast scope of authority during their investigation. A full investigation by a guardian ad litem can include interviews with anyone involved with your child or who may have information about your child. Interviews may include but are not limited to:
- You and your family
- Your ex and their family
- Your child’s teachers
- Your child’s coaches
- Your child
The guardian ad litem also has the authority to speak to and request information from any mental health, medical professionals, or others providing services to you or your child.
The guardian ad litem has the right to speak with your child outside of your presence. The guardian ad litem will also want to view the child in various environments. They may request to visit with the child in your home, as well as in your ex’s home. During these prearranged visits, they may have questions or observe various interactions in each home.
Guardian ad litems can also research and request copies of anything that will affect your child’s safety in either home. These reports may include:
- Police reports
- Drug treatment records
- Child protective service reports
Because the guardian ad litem receives their authority from the court, you or your attorney will not be able to limit their access to relevant information.
What Will Be Include In The Guardian Ad Litems Report To The Court?
By remaining focused on the child’s best interest, any relevant information gathered during the investigation will be included in the report the guardian ad litem provides the court. The report is often an overview of everything they have compiled, but it will consist of the guardian ad litem’s recommendation on custody and visitation. The guardian ad litem must provide other attorneys involved with a copy of the report at least 11 days before court.
The guardian ad litem also has the right to call witnesses, cross-examine any witnesses put forth by the other attorneys, and request an emergency hearing if they feel the child is in danger.
The guardian ad litem will advise the court of your child’s preferences, but these are not always in your child’s best interest. The guardian ad litem will also report this, and your child’s preferences may not be the guardian ad litem’s final recommendation. The court will then consider all of the information given by the guardian ad litem, your attorney, and your ex’s attorney before they make their final decision.
The Law Offices of Lynda Latta, LLC, understand the role of the guardian ad litem. We will answer any questions you have pertaining to their role and any other parts of your custody proceedings. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation.