If you have a legal issue involving children, the court may assign a Guardian Ad Litem to your case. When a child’s best interests are involved, it can be difficult for the court to decide what’s best for the child in question. Both parents have their input, but what the child truly needs is an impartial advocate—and that’s the Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL.
Find out what role a GAL may play in your legal issue, and when you’re ready for more personalized guidance with your family law concerns, call Hardy Pence at 304-407-7852 to set up a consultation.
How the Guardian Ad Litem Helps in Divorce Cases
When a couple with minor children is getting divorced, a GAL may be appointed to protect the children’s best interests. This is especially important when the parents are deeply divided about what is best for the children or when one party appears to be manipulating the situation against the other parent.
The GAL may investigate the children’s living conditions, relationships with both parents and how their needs are met in both households. They may talk to the children, interview parents, and ask questions of other adults in the children’s lives. For example, they may talk to teachers, therapists, and doctors.
One of a Guardian Ad Litem’s most important jobs is assessing each parent’s ability to meet their children’s needs. Their goal is to determine to what extent each parent can meet a child’s physical, emotional, developmental, and educational needs. They get a lot of the information they need during the parent interviews, but they can also learn a lot simply by seeing the parents interact with the children. Relevant factors include any history of domestic violence, each parent’s mental health, the stability of each parent, and each individual’s general parenting skills.
Once the GAL has gotten the information they need, they will make official recommendations to the court. Their goal is to ensure that the children’s needs are met and that they benefit from a safe, nurturing environment.
What the Guardian Ad Litem Does in Child Custody Cases
Child custody issues may arise between never-married parents or divorced parents with an established custody order. In these cases, the GAL does much of the same work they do in a divorce case. They look into the child’s relationship with both parents and each parent’s ability to meet the developmental needs of the child.
If either side brings up allegations of abuse or parental alienation, the GAL’s job is to assess the validity of those claims. This often involves reviewing medical records, talking to other trusted adults in the child’s life, and gathering more information from each parent. For example, they may be able to figure out whether or not parental alienation is occurring based on the language used by the child and if that language appears coached or developmentally appropriate.
By gathering their own information and collaborating with other professionals, the Guardian Ad Litem can make custody recommendations to the court.
Working With the Guardian Ad Litem
It’s important to avoid viewing the Guardian Ad Litem as an enemy or as someone interfering in your relationship with your child. They, like you, just want what is best for your child. Communicate with them openly and honestly, but avoid talking at length about irrelevant topics or delving too deep into your divorce.
Make yourself an active participant in the legal process by cooperating with the GAL, providing the information and documentation they need, and attending all court dates and interviews. When you do communicate with the Guardian Ad Litem, stay respectful and succinct. Don’t initiate confrontations or try to manipulate their view of the situation.
Be ready to provide any documentation the GAL requests. They may want a child’s attendance records, medical records, academic assessments, or therapy notes. They may also want character references who can speak to your ability as a parent.
Explore Your Legal Options with the Help of Hardy Pence
When you work with the team at Hardy Pence, you can rest easy knowing that your family law concerns are in good hands. Whether you need help with your divorce or a child custody case, our team of Charleston family law attorneys is here to help. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 304-407-7852 or reach out online.