A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney who is specifically trained in the area of representing children. They are appointed by the court to represent individual children in custody matters. The GAL is the “voice” of the child; but they do not necessarily advocate for what the child “wants.” Instead, the GAL is required to do a full investigation to determine what is in the child’s best interests.
GALs are paid for by the parents to represent and advocate the best interests of a child or children. GALs are appropriate in cases where there is on-going high conflict litigation that includes significant medical, educational and/or mental health issues affecting the children, especially when parents disagree on the nature of the child’s needs and best interests. GAL’s submit recommendations to the Family Court and are available to testify at trial or hearings.
What is the Difference between a Custody Evaluator (CE) a Best Interest Fact Finder and a GAL?
GAL’s are generally attorneys. Custody Evaluators are mental health professionals. Best Interests Fact Finders do much the same thing that a CE does, but they are attorneys, not mental health providers, so they cannot make diagnosis or therapeutic recommendations. CEs and Best Interests Fact Finders job is to investigate and evaluate the parties parenting in order to provide information to the Court regarding the best interests of the children. A GAL is an attorney and a party to the case.
The attorney’s at The Children’s Law Centers are trained GALs with many years of experience in the representation of children of all ages.