What Is the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in Your Child Custody Dispute?
Divorce is hard on a family, because all aspects of each spouse’s lives are analyzed in an effort to sever the union. If minor children are involved, a further issue regarding custody must be addressed. Child-related issues are especially stressful, and courts view all these decisions in terms of what is in the best interests of the child. In some cases, particularly those with a lot of conflict, a judge may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to assist the judge in determining the best interests. A GAL is a neutral individual who is tasked with reporting to the judge his/her findings as to the most appropriate custody-related circumstance that will best assist the child’s wellbeing. Retaining the services of an experienced family law attorney is crucial to ensuring that a parent has a proper opportunity to counter the GAL’s findings, should the findings be not in the parent’s favor. However, understanding the role of the GAL is important to developing a strategy to respond to his/her position.
Guardians Ad Litem
A GAL is an individual appointed by a court to represent the interests of minor children in legal actions. Generally, GALs are individuals who are tasked with protecting the well-being and interests of their ward, and are authorized to act by court order only for the duration of the legal action. Judges will appoint these individuals for assistance in understanding the interests of the minor children, so that he/she can issue a decision that is best for all parties involved. Although not a requirement, GALs are typically individuals who are able to investigate and persuade the judge of the best interests of the children, such as attorneys.
Purpose and Role
A GAL, officially, is not an attorney for the child, but acts as an investigator or evaluator to determine whether a potential aspect of the divorce is within the best interests of the child. Importantly, a GAL is not impartial, as his/her job is to fight for the child. Consequently, some positions the GAL may take may be contrary to one parent. According to the law, the GAL is authorized to:
- Investigate any allegations affecting the child, and, after proper notice, may interview the child, witnesses, or any other person having information concerning the welfare of the child;
- Petition the court for an order directing the GAL be allowed to inspect and copy any records and documents which relate to the minor child, the child’s parents or other custodial adults, or household members living with the child;
- Request examinations of the child, the child’s parents, or other interested parties in the action, by medical professionals;
- Assist the court in obtaining impartial expert examinations;
- Make written or oral recommendations to the court, including a statement of the wishes of the child; and
- File any pleadings, motions, or petitions for relief as he/she deems appropriate or necessary to accomplish his/her role.
Thus, the purpose of a GAL is, foremost, to act as an advocate for the parties’ child and to investigate allegations that affect the child, and to provide a report to the court with recommendations about which custody arrangement will be in the best interests of the child.
If you are a parent in a Florida divorce or other court proceeding involving your children, the court may appoint a GAL for your children. It is important to understand the specific role of the GAL. To understand and develop strategies that you can use to leverage the decisions by the GAL to your advantage, seek the counsel of an experienced Florida family law lawyer immediately. The attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. know how to fight for your rights, and are available to take you call. Contact the Fort Lauderdale divorce firm at (954) 467-6656 for a free consultation.