Our Knowledgeable NY Lawyer Discusses the Critical Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in Family Law Cases

Divorce battles that include child custody matters can be emotionally draining, even when both parents intend to keep the best interests of the children as their number one priority. In some separation and divorce proceedings, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to advocate for minor children. The skilled family law attorney at Alatlas Law Firm discusses the responsibilities of a GAL and who can be appointed to this crucial role. The role of a guardian ad litem

Why a Guardian Ad Litem Is Used in Custody Cases

A GAL is a legal representative appointed by the court to protect the interests of a child in cases involving custody, visitation, or other family law matters. Their primary focus is on the child’s welfare and ensuring that the child’s voice is heard during legal proceedings.

A GAL is not appointed in all divorce cases. However, they are often used when there are potentially inflammatory issues with the parents that the court believes may affect the well-being of the minor child. Sometimes, one or both parents request a GAL. The reasons the court may appoint a GAL may vary but may include:

  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect or abandonment
  • Juvenile delinquency

You can always ask your New York divorce lawyer why the court is appointing a GAL in your case, but you cannot prohibit the GAL from serving once they have been appointed. Doing so is a violation of the court’s direction, and you could be held in contempt.

Who Can Be a Guardian Ad Litem?

You don’t get to pick who acts as your GAL. In New York, GALs are typically attorneys or mental health professionals who have specific training and experience in child advocacy and family law. They are considered to have the skills and expertise to effectively represent the child’s interests in court.

The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem

 GALs serve as the eyes and ears of the court, conducting investigations, gathering information, and making recommendations based on what they believe is in the child’s best interests. Their goal is to ensure that decisions made by the court regarding the child’s welfare are done so with comprehensive information about the child and their situation. The GAL does not represent either of the parents and is an impartial third party when performing or providing the following:

  • Investigation. One of the primary responsibilities of a GAL is to conduct a thorough investigation into the child’s circumstances. This may involve interviewing the child, parents, friends, relatives, and other relevant parties, as well as reviewing documents and gathering evidence.
  • Advocacy. Using the information gathered during their investigation, the GAL advocates for the child’s best interests in court proceedings. They may present their findings, make recommendations to the court, and ensure that the child’s perspective and feelings are given due consideration.
  • Court attendance. The GAL will be present at all court hearings related to the divorce and may take the stand to provide testimony.
  • Monitoring. Even after their initial investigation and recommendations, GALs continue to monitor the child’s situation to ensure that court orders are being followed and the child’s needs are being met.

What to Know if a Guardian Ad Litem Is Appointed for Your Child

  • First impressions matter. The GAL can wield important decision-making influence with regard to the custody of your children. Always present your best self when dealing with the GAL. Try not to convey irritation with your spouse, the legal process, or the court system.
  • Pay. Both parents will split the costs for the GAL’s services. The court will assign a percentage to each parent based on their income. Typically, you begin with a lump sum for an initial deposit and then will receive regular invoices from the office going forward.
  • Communicate. Be honest and forthcoming with information that may impact the child’s welfare. The GAL’s job is to do what’s best for minor children. Being proactive and honest with communication helps them do their best job for the children.
  • Cooperate. Work cooperatively with the GAL and respond promptly and courteously to any requests or recommendations they may make.

Our New York Divorce Lawyer Can Help You

If your divorce case has a GAL, working with an experienced New York divorce lawyer can help maximize the protection of your rights and interests throughout every stage of the divorce. It’s never too late in the process to retain a trusted lawyer to represent your interests in your divorce, even after a GAL has been appointed.