Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Should We Get A Guardian Ad Litem?
I often times have clients request that a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed for their children in a divorce. Sometimes there are disputes between the attorneys' as to whether or not they are necessary. In case you are unaware, a Guardian Ad Litem ("GAL") is an attorney who is appointed by the court to represent the children in a divorce or other case involving children. Their job is to independently review the case, gather information, and speak with the children. Once they have conducted their investigation, they submit their report and recommendations to the Court, and generally speaking the Court's give great weight to the report of the GAL. Therefore, if a GAL report is not in your favor, it could mean the end of your custody fight. Therefore, if you wish to have a GAL appointed, you should be forewarned that if you are alienating your children from your spouse, do not have a proper living environment or have made attempts in the past to put the children in the middle of your divorce or custody battle, a GAL will definitely pick up on this and it can work against you. I would hope that all parents keep their children's best interests in the forefront of their thoughts when going through a divorce, however, I am not naive enough to believe that this is always the case. So, the question about whether or not a GAL is necessary in a custody dispute is whether you believe that your children's rights are not being recognized or you feel that the court needs an independent third party opinion to ensure that you get the custody results you want. GAL's are tremendously helpful in custody disputes, but an unfavorable GAL report is detrimental to a custody case. While I am always in favor of a GAL in custody disputes, when I am slightly fearful that a GAL report may not come out in favor of my client, I advise my client about this before we agree or request a GAL.