In highly contested and difficult family matters, it can be beneficial to have a qualified professional involved whose sole responsibility is looking toward the ultimate welfare of the child or children involved. A Guardian ad litem works as an advocate for the children and their best interests, investigating and counseling the court with an unbiased perspective regarding the welfare of the children in a family matter.
What is a GAL?
A Guardian ad litem is a professional appointed by the court to protect the best interests of children involved in complicated and/or contentious family matter. This person is often an attorney who is familiar with the court system and able to counsel the court regarding the needs of the children, or a qualified medical professional able to discern and advocate for the same. A Guardian ad litem is tasked with giving the children involved a voice in the court proceedings and being an independent and unbiased evaluator in questions of placement, co-parenting, and child welfare.
What does a GAL do?
A Guardian ad litem conducts visits with the child or children involved in a family case in order to get to know them and see how they are progressing and how the case may be affecting them. The GAL also conducts interviews with adults involved in the children’s care, including parents, treatment providers and supports, to gain further understanding of the situation. Lastly, the GAL compiles their findings and evaluations into a report which encompasses recommendations regarding placement, child contact, co-parenting, and other issues discovered during the court proceedings.
What are the benefits of using a GAL?
A Guardian ad litem can be an asset to a case, particularly if it involves complicated and contentious family matters for many reasons. First, they ensure that everyone involved in the matter is advocated for—often the smallest voices are the hardest to hear, and it is the GAL’s job to make those voices heard and to promote their best interests. Often times Guardians also work with parents to offer creative solutions to solving contentious issues and ways of creating and supporting the new family dynamic. Their recommendations regarding placement, visitation, and co-parenting, if taken seriously, can save each party the time, energy, and money required for lengthy and emotionally trying contested hearings with multiple witnesses and arguments.