By Sara Pitcher
However, either party in a family law case may request that the judge appoint a GAL in order to determine the best interests of the child or children involved in the case. The judge has discretion however, in deciding whether the party’s request should be granted.
In many states, a GAL is required to be appointed in abuse or neglect cases involving children.
Many guys wonder whether a Guardian Ad Litem would be helpful in their case and whether it would be beneficial to request one.
You may wish to request a GAL if you and the other party have a dispute as to a material aspect of the child’s well being and you wish to avoid litigating the issue in front of a judge. The GAL may be able to conduct their investigation and issue their report or discuss findings with the parties.
The parties may then be able to enter into an agreement based on the GAL’s findings. This may help the parties avoid the cost of the GAL fees combined with the expense of going to a hearing.
Guardian Ad Litem Cost
Often the Guardian Ad Litem’s fees are split equally between the parties. However, the court may order the parties split the cost with the higher earning spouse paying a higher percentage of the GAL fees.
The court may even order one party to pay the entire GAL fee, especially if the requesting spouse earns substantially more and the responding spouse objected to the request for a Guardian Ad Litem. The judge has discretion to determine the proper division of fees based on the circumstances of each case.
Role Of Guardian Ad Litem
Once a Guardian Ad Litem has been appointed in your case, you may be wondering what their role will be. A GAL will often be appointed in a case to look after the best interests of the child and report to the court, often through a written report, what the GAL believes to be in the best interest of the child. The Guardian Ad Litem’s role is to advocate for the child’s best interests in court.
The GAL may report on the child’s living arrangements, relationships, child custody, parenting time, etc. The GAL may also make recommendations for services that they feel to be in the best interests of the child and let the court know what the GAL hopes will happen in the case. The report to the court should be an independent assessment of the situation.
How GALs Evaluate Child Custody
In order to determine what will be in the best interest of the child, the Guardian Ad Litem will visit the child, the parents and step parents, and may visit with or contact others that the GAL feels may provide information necessary to help make a decision, such as teachers. The GAL may also review documents to form their opinion as to the best interests of the child.
In addition, the Guardian Ad Litem has the ability to subpoena witnesses to testify, ask questions and attend depositions, and access school and medical records of the child. The GAL may also ask the parties for a list of witnesses to speak with to obtain more information on the interaction of the parties with the child and the character of the parties.
While the Guardian Ad Litem is an advocate for the best interests of the child, the GAL is not the child’s attorney. The GAL is not obligated to do what the child wants and communications between the child and the GAL are not kept confidential since they may be disclosed in the GAL’s report or through discovery.
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