Guardian Ad Litem Lawyers

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 What is Guardian Ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an advocate serving the interests of a child whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court. When the court makes decisions affecting a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson. Therefore, the court provides an objective adult that can give independent information about the child’s best interests.

While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, the GAL has considered the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interests of the child. They are assigned as an advocate for the child for the duration of the court process and as needed.

Remember that this is separate from a legal guardian; the GAL has no control over the person or property of the child and does not provide a home for the child. It is important to note that the GAL does not function as the child’s attorney or provide direct services to the child.

Moreover, GAL conducts interviews to observe the children and significant people in their lives. They also review social service, medical, school, psychological and criminal records, and reports. They meet with other professionals involved with the children and their families to develop a proper framework for the courts. They outline options while drafting written and oral court recommendations regarding the children’s short and long-term best interests.

They monitor court-ordered plans to ensure the children’s best interests are being fulfilled. Lastly, it is not the GAL’s job to make decisions about the child’s future but to provide recommendations to the court to enable the court to make the best possible decision. For instance, GAL in Minnesota includes specially trained community volunteers and state employees.

What are the Guardian Ad Litem Advocate Responsibilities?

The GAL’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Thoroughly scanning for details in the case;
  • Collaborating with other participants in the case;
  • Recommending the best for a child by writing court reports;
  • Empowering the child’s voice;
  • Staying vigilant by constantly monitoring the case and;
  • Keeping all information confidential.

One of the main qualifications for becoming a GAL is to have a sincere and genuine concern for the well-being of children.

Why Has a Guardian Ad Litem Been Appointed?

Generally, courts appoint GAL in cases involving issues regarding you and your child. You may have a heavy load of information that you want to provide to the judge to make the best decision regarding your case. The other parent may be concerned in the same way.

Each of you will have your special viewpoint about the situation. However, the judge will also want the viewpoint or perspective of your child. It is important to note that this crucial perspective is not missed or overlooked, and the judge ensures this. A GAL must ensure that sensitive information regarding your child’s best interest is available to the judge.

What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?

While each case is different, the GAL will want to set up a meeting with your child. The GAL may talk with the child if the child is old enough and communicate with other people involved in your cases, such as persons providing care for the child, other relatives of the child, and other persons who know about the facts of your case.

After the GAL has completed investigating the facts about your case, they will provide a report to the court, either by preparing a written report or by verbally communicating the investigation results with the judge in court.

The GAL will be present at the court hearings when information about your child is shown to the judge. The GAL will also collaborate with you and the other parent to possibly reach an agreement about the case without contesting in a courtroom hearing. Furthermore, the GAL may request to see the medical, school, and other records about the child. To allow this to happen, GAL may ask parents to sign a waiver, giving the GAL permission to talk to teachers, counselors, doctors, and other persons involved in the child’s care.

The GAL may recognize a need for services to be provided to the family to deal with special issues the family faces. If this occurs, the GAL may suggest that the child and family members participate in certain services. The GAL can request the judge to require the parents to do certain things for the child’s best interest. If the GAL recommends the court order a parent to do something, the parent must abide by those orders. A parent can be punished for failing to comply with a lawful order a judge has entered.

In some special cases, the attorney that serves as the “Guardian ad Litem” is paid by the county, and there is no charge to the parents. If your case does not fall into one of these special scenarios, the fees of the GAL are paid by the mother and father. Additionally, the GAL will track the time they devote to services in your case. The GAL will report the services provided and the amount of time spent to the judge assigned to your case. The GAL will usually provide such an accounting at least every ninety days.

Based on this information obtained from the GAL, the judge will decide what amount the GAL will be paid and how much of that amount should be paid by the mother, and how much by the father. The judge can decide whether the parents should share the cost equally, or the judge can order the bill to be paid differently. This is typically based on the income and resources that a parent has. Often, the GAL will request a “retainer.” This is an advance amount paid to the GAL for the services to be performed later. A qualified lawyer can provide detailed information and advice regarding these matters.

What is the Role of the Child In These Proceedings?

It is prohibited for a parent to limit or restrict GAL access to a child. When the GAL meets with the child, this is a time for the GAL to determine what facts and information are crucial to the child and the case. Therefore, it is advised for a parent not to rehearse what the child should say to the GAL.

Each parent will have an opportunity to meet and discuss with the GAL their issues. During the parent’s meeting with the GAL, the parent can communicate their perspective to the GAL. However, it is understandable for a parent to be curious about what a child communicates with a GAL. But, a parent cannot question the child about what was discussed during meetings between the GAL and the child.

When Do I Need To Contact a Lawyer?

If there has been a guardian ad litem appointed in your case. It is suggested to contact a local guardianship attorney in your area to discuss your path forward. The GAL lawyers provide special services for the courts. Their ultimate goal is to serve the best interests of the child.

Your attorney can provide you with legal advice and guidance if you need to file any legal action. Also, if there are any changes to family laws that could affect your rights, your attorney can keep you updated as well.

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