What is a Guardian ad litem?
Alan R. Nye
In a family matter, when custody of minor children is in dispute, you may be faced with the decision of whether a guardian ad litem (GAL) should be appointed. A GAL is sometimes requested by the parties and appointed by the court to be an advocate on behalf of the children. The GAL is a person, often an attorney with specialized training, that the court appoints to represent the best interests of the children. A court order establishes what the GAL’s duties are, how many hours the GAL will devote to the case, and who pays the GAL. The fee is generally split between the parties or shared in proportion to their income.
After performing an investigation – often involving interviewing the children, parents, other relatives, teachers and anyone else that might provide helpful information, as well as reviewing relevant documents like school or medical records – the GAL will write and send a report to the court making recommendations about the issues in question. The recommendations in the report do not need to be followed by the judge, but they are usually given great weight. The GAL can also be a witness at the trial to testify about his or her recommendations and to any other matters relating to the children. Just like any other witness, the GAL is subject to cross examination by you or your attorney.