Guardian Ad Litem: The Voice of Children In Custody Cases

guardian ad litem

Although many parents resolve their divorce without major issues, there are cases where they are unable to agree on what is best for the child. When an agreement cannot be reached, a guardian ad litem will be assigned to the child.

What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem (GAL), also known as a ‘best interest attorney,’ will represent the best interest of your child in a custody case.

Their role is critical because they are the party that gives your child a voice in the courtroom. In a custody case, a GAL will be appointed to determine what the best outcome for the child is.

GALs can be psychologists or attorneys. However, most of the time they are simply volunteers that have been thoroughly trained.

What Does a GAL Do?

GALs have to remain impartial to all other parties involved in the case, because they only represent the child’s voice.

The court appoints GALs who are then required to report important information back to the judge, even if it seems confidential. To attain such information, a GAL has to enter a family’s personal life. Unfortunately for both parents and children, that may turn out to be quite an uncomfortable experience.

Along with the right to observe domestic life, they can also reach out to the family’s healthcare provider, as well as visit the child’s school. When GALs do this, they usually observe and interview all parties that come into contact with the family to gather any valuable information on the conditions in which the child lives.

This can sometimes feel intrusive and often embarrassing for the family. However, it is important to remember that the GALs are there for the benefit of the child.

What Is The Next Step?

The GAL will take all the collected information and present it to the judge. It is extremely important to note that a GAL is not only a witness, as they also have to present arguments in the courtroom. It is their job to give the judge a neutral, outside perspective on the situation at hand.

A GAL can never make a decision, though. What they do is state their opinions and recommendations on whether either or both parents can handle their responsibilities.

When a child confides in their GAL, it means that parents are not allowed to speak for their children and the judge will acknowledge the opinion of the child.

Can Anyone Be a Guardian Ad Litem?

As mentioned earlier, although GALs are more often than not volunteers, they are very well-rehearsed for this position. Along with intensive training, being a GAL requires having tough skin.

They often encounter children who are in very strenuous positions and have to be ready to face adversity. Also, not many parents are particularly happy about having a GAL entering their private lives. so there is bound to be some friction there.

Although being a GAL is incredibly challenging, at the end of the day, it is a helping job. As a GAL, one gives a voice to a child who in such tough situations may easily be overheard or silenced.

A GAL’s job is to give children a say in their future. Although there are dark times, nothing can surpass the feeling of finding a safe home for a child. Being a guardian ad litem holds plenty of happy and even memorable moments!

image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/flguardian2/7388518708/