How A Guardian Ad Litem Impacts Your Child Custody Case

child custody decisionBy Daniel Exner

Divorce Lawyer, Cordell & Cordell

A Guardian ad Litem is a court appointed attorney who is charged with reviewing the parties’ relationship with their minor child(ren) and making a child custody and parenting time recommendation to the court.

The GAL will recommend a custody and placement arrangement that he or she believes is in the best interests of the child(ren).

It’s important to note that the GAL’s recommendation is not always consistent with the expressed desires of the child.

This is because the GAL represents the “best interests of the child,” and the GAL’s determination of what is in the child’s best interest may be in conflict with what the child says he or she wants.

The court will appoint a GAL if the court has reason for special concern as to the welfare of a minor child or the legal custody or physical placement of a child is contested.

If the court has no concern for the immediate welfare of the children, the parties will be given the opportunity to mediate custody and placement issues before a GAL is appointed. By statutory directive in the state I practice in (Wisconsin), the court must promptly appoint a GAL if mediation fails.

After a GAL is appointed, he or she will continue to act on behalf of the best interests of the child(ren) until discharged by the court.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

At what point in the process does a GAL become involved? Well, the time for a GAL’s appointment depends on the circumstances of the individual case.

Whether the court will assign a GAL to your case before the temporary hearing depends on your child custody and placement status and the purpose of the temporary hearing. If this is your first temporary hearing, the court will set terms for custody and placement which must be followed while the action is pending.

If you have not begun mediation as of that date, the court will order you both to mediation unless there are domestic violence issues. If this is your second hearing and you and the opposing party have not agreed on custody and placement, and mediation has failed, the court will probably appoint a GAL at the time of the hearing.

If this is your first temporary hearing, please note that the court will proceed to make a decision on temporary custody and placement based on the testimony of the parties or argument by the attorneys.

It is imperative that you take this hearing seriously as status quo is incredibly important in custody and placement cases.  Therefore, if an order is issued with a limited visitation schedule to one parent, that parent is going to have a challenge increasing his or her time with the children if the children thrive in the temporary schedule.

As noted, the purpose of a GAL is to provide the court with a disinterested party’s assessment of the family living situation. The court will want the GAL to have plenty of time to review the case before the GAL makes his or her recommendation and the Court resolves the custody or placement issue.

As a practical matter, the court usually follows the GAL’s recommendation, but that is not true in all case. Consult with a local attorney for specific legal advice on divorce.

divorce lawyer Daniel ExnerCordell & Cordell has mens divorce lawyers located nationwide. To schedule an appointment with one, including Daniel Exner, a Staff Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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11 comments on “How A Guardian Ad Litem Impacts Your Child Custody Case

    A mother who has custody of 13 y/o daughter is moving out of state to Utah . The daughter doesn’t want to go and cries because she don’t want to leave her Dad and Grandparents visitation. The mother called the ex husband ( dad) and says Come get her. She doesn’t want to go. You can have Custody. Dad picks up daughter and enrolls her is school in the county he lives. Mother called Dad and said come pick up daughters belongings , We are moving. Dad hires attorney who draws up papers and Mother signs in front of notary . Court date is set and Mother states she will attend. A week before scheduled court date , Mother moves to Utah. She refuses to talk with Daughter on phone. What will happen when they go before a judge with paperwork . Daughters testimony and Mother is not there.

    How can a Gal assume everything in her report with No evidence against one side. I would think she can’t just make up circumstances that she assumes. Assumptions are not always as she thinks it is. Loosing your children with no evidence of drugs, harm, abuse and not even wanting to see any proof of her accusations that she is wrong. We have proof in black and white from the ex that I was accused of because she believed him. Judge appointed her on a 8 year old custody case and after 2 weeks took my twins away from my whole family and we have No visitation or rights and it’s been 6 months. The GAL said over and over ” I believe this could happen”.In her report but no evidence of that it did. I believe this is guilty until proven innocent. DCFS would never take children away with no proof of harm.HELP DOES THIS MAKE SENSE.??

    What role does the GAL play after the custody hearing has already been decided, with both parties in agreement? One party is trying to modify agreement and specifically asking same GAL be appointed. Same party has been in constant contact with same GAL since first agreement had been reached. Would this be ethical? Would this not make GAL somewhat biased in this case? I would assume GAL is being paid since her time is not likely to be free. I would also like to add that said party works in close relation to the juvenile court system. Can anyone direct me to where I can find answers

    Do both parties have to agree to have a GAL prior to mediation. My husband is seeking more time with his 13 yo son and the biological mother refuses to consent to GAL even though the father will pay the expense. Why do both parties have to consent? If she refuses to be interviewed how can she refuse child to be interviewed? The 13 year old wants a voice for equal time?

    when it clearly states in the statues and laws that the best interest of the child is to be with both parents and that for both to have equal placement time with the child or children and to have the GAL change it to favor one party there is bias there and its not in the best interest of the child or children to be alienated from a fit parent..follow the money and you will find the motive behind the decisions being made which isnt in the best interest of the kids at all

    A guardian ad litem has been appointed for my 3 1/2 yr old granddaughter in the child custody case between my son, who is her father, and the mother of my granddaughter. The two never married. Will the guardian ad litem interview my granddaughter, or observe time between my son and his daughter, prior to making a decision about the best interest in custody for my granddaughter? As the grandmother, will I be interviewed? Thanks.

    What happens if the GAL report comes out and favors one side. Then a psychologist does a private custody study and says opposite? Are these private studies looked at as more of a hired gun and have less weight than GAL? Which would take precedence? Thanks.

    Appealing GAL’s decision
    No it doesn’t mean the GAL didn’t do his/her job because the GAL’s job is to recommend a child custody plan to the judge. Unfortunately that often means a GAL can write make a recommendation to the judge that can seem wholly unfavorable to one side.

    You can fight the GAL’s recommendation (and remember it’s only a recommendation, not the final decision), but it is not easy. One possibility is have your lawyer bring in another GAL to provide another opinion if you are confident that the first GAL was not impartial and was unfairly targeting one party for less parenting time. You will need an attorney’s assistance with this.

    You say that the GAL is supposed to be a disinterested party. If the report they write is clearly one-sided does that mean they didn’t do their job? How would you argue that?

    Sarah, first of all, learn what the term, “disinterested” means. It means the that GAL has NOTHING to PERSONALLY GAIN from siding with one side or the other. It does not mean that they don’t care. And it certainly does not mean that they will ignore any evidence of maltreatment of the children. If the GAL’s report is “one-sided” then it means that he/she found reason to believe that YOU are not in the child’s best interest, and your ex is. The GAL’s job is NOT to defend yours or your ex’s rights as parents. The GAL’s job is defend your CHILD’s right to be treated lovingly and not abused, neglected or maltreated in anyway. Your child has a RIGHT to that and it’s the GAL to defend that right in court. I suggest that you get over yourself, take the GAL’s recommendation to heart and self evaluate.

    How is it in the best interest of a child or children when the GAL helps takes away one’s financial earnings to the other parent and leaves the other to suffer and when kids comes back to the parent who is suffering which would leave the kids with nothing and having to suffer with the parent who is suffering?

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