In certain circumstances, the court may appoint a GAL in your family law case. The Court may appoint a GAL on its own motion or the parties may motion the Court for a GAL. The GAL’s role is to investigate the issues as ordered by the Court.
An example of when a GAL might be appointed in your case:
A contested parenting plan/custody proceeding, a relocation, an adoption, and more. Often times, one or both parents make allegations about the ability of the other parent’s (or guardian(s)) abilities to parent the child and as a result, the parties are unable to agree on a parenting plan and ask the Court to order a parenting schedule. Often times the allegations require additional investigation and the Court appoints a GAL to perform this investigation and make a recommendation to the Court about their placement and residential schedule. This simplified explanation is not intended to be legal advice, and it is not all inclusive of issues or orders by the court. This is informational guidance only and when you meet with your attorney you can discuss whether or not you want to ask for the assistance of a GAL.
So we have the GAL, what are they allowed to do?
The GAL must always represent the best interests of the child(ren). The GAL investigation and duties may include speaking to the children when possible, the parties, collateral contacts identified by the parties, and any other people or organizations as may be identified throughout the course of the investigation, and may refer the child to professional personnel for diagnosis if appropriate. The GAL may obtain information from medical, psychiatric or other expert persons who have served the child. This means the GAL will likely call you, talk to your kids, do a home visit if possible, check everyone in the home’s criminal background, review CPS records, school records, medical records, and anything else the GAL reasonably believes is important in his or her investigation.
The GAL makes recommendations based upon his or her investigation, which the court may consider and weigh in conjunction with the recommendations of all the parties.
How much is this investigation going to cost me?
The cost of the GAL is ordered by the Court or as otherwise agreed by the parties. In certain circumstances the County will advance payment, but typically the parties pay for the GAL in accordance with their ability to pay.
General Advice when you are in the midst of an investigation: There is no doubt that going through a divorce, or modification process is stressful. Your child is of the utmost importance to you, and it can be even more so when a GAL investigation is pending. The GAL is to be a best interest recommendation for your family. It is very important that you timely cooperate with the GAL, answer his or her questions, and cooperate with requests for information as timely as possible. Please be honest with the GAL and do not engage in an effort to coach your child(ren)’s testimony. Please don’t talk to the children about litigation and remember your kids are probably nervous also. As always, this is not legal advice, talk to a lawyer about your specific case and your family’s needs, and remember, stay calm.