When going through a divorce, parents may disagree about custody decisions. In order to understand what would be in the best interests of the child, a judge may decide to appoint a guardian ad litem.
What is a guardian ad litem?
A guardian ad litem (often abbreviated “GAL”) is a person appointed by the court to ensure that your child’s interests are represented in discussions concerning custody. Many times, a guardian ad litem is a lawyer who has undergone additional training in fields such as social work, psychiatry, or psychology. A guardian ad litem is usually (although not always) appointed when there are questions of abuse or neglect. Their duty is to ensure that your child’s voice is heard in court. They have the power to bring motions to change custody agreements and to ask the court to enforce agreements.
The guardian ad litem’s investigation can include:
- Interviewing you and your spouse
- Interviewing your child
- Interviewing other people and professionals in your child’s life, such as extended family members, daycare workers, doctors, etc.
- Observing your and your spouse’s residence, including surprise visits
- Observing your and your spouse’s interactions with your child
After the guardian ad litem has conducted their investigation, they will submit a report based on their findings. This report is intended to be objective and should include information that the court needs to know before deciding custody issues. The guardian ad litem may also make a recommendation as to what they think is the best custody arrangement for your child. While the court is not obligated to follow the recommendation of the guardian ad litem, they often will because it represents the most unbiased professional opinion in the case.