Guardian Ad Litem
A “guardian ad litem” (hereinafter “GAL”) is a person that the Court appoints to investigate a family and write a report to the Court about what they believe would be in the best interests of a child(ren) involved in the case.
When a GAL is appointed in a Divorce or Paternity action, generally parental rights and responsibilities are investigated by the GAL. The GAL will meet with each family member individually and the children together with each parent as well as speak with doctors, teachers and collaterals offered by the parties of the action. The GAL is reviewing the family situation and will report back to the Court relative to topic that range from, where a child should reside primarily, whether a child has been harmed by a parent, whether a parent has substance abuse problems, whether it is appropriate for a child to be in contact with both parents, etc. Simply, when the parties are not able to agree on basic aspects of a parenting plan or there is any allegation of abuse, the Court will appoint a GAL.
A GAL can be appointed as a category E or category F investigator. The basic difference is that category E investigators write recommendations in their report for the Court, while a category F does not include recommendations, but rather simply reports to the Court what they investigated. In those cases where recommendations of the GAL are included, absent material flaws in the GAL’s investigation, the recommendations are generally adopted by the Court and put into a Court Order. The Court considers the GAL their “eyes and ears”. That being said, an unfavorable GAL report can be attacked where appropriate.
Generally speaking, a GAL is a lawyer or a mental health professional. Most cases the attorneys for the parties are able to reach an agreement relative to who they would like to act as GAL, however, if the attorneys are not able to reach an agreement, the Court has a list of names of people who are GALs that they choose from.
To learn more about the roles of a category F, GAL:
To learn more about the roles of a category E, GAL: