What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed by the court to act as an independent observer and advocate for the children in a contested child custody case. The GAL is usually a lawyer who is known to the judge as being knowledgeable in every aspect of child custody and family law issues. The judge charges the GAL to investigate the contested issues, interview the parents and children, (as well as third parties, such as teachers, daycare providers, etc.), and view the children with each parent in their home environment. The GAL will report back to the judge, usually in writing, with their findings and recommendations. The judge has a great deal of respect for the GAL and their findings (they did, after all, appoint them), and so should you!
Why Do We Need A Guardian Ad Litem?
Each parent, in most child custody case, honestly believe they are the parent in whose custody the court should place their minor children. If the parents have an attorney, the attorney is obligated to advocate for their client and argue for their client’s interest. How does the judge know what facts are legitimate concerns and which ones are red herrings offered in the midst of a heated custody battle? The fact of the matter is they cannot; ergo, the GAL.
Juvenile Court judges never want to involve the children, and rarely do involve the children in child custody battles. The GAL is required under the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia to advocate for the children’s legitimate interests. They are required under the Rules to represent the children’s welfare and express the wishes of the child to the court, if those wishes differ from the opinion of the GAL.
What Powers Does A GAL Have?
A GAL has the same powers and authority as any other attorney advocating for their client. In addition to having the authority to review private, confidential documents in the court’s file, they also may issue subpoenas for medical records and school reports. A GAL also has the authority to subpoena witnesses, such as teachers, childcare providers, and medical personnel.
How Should I Treat The GAL?
Most GALs are known to your attorney, the other attorney, as well as the judge. If you or your attorney has had any past dealings with the GAL selected by the judge, you should let your attorney know immediately so that a timely objection may be made. Many times, if there is a conflict, or a belief the GAL may not be impartial to the parents, the judge will appoint another GAL.
Once the GAL has been appointed, you will want to be respectful and be on your best behavior any time you are in their presence. You should be available to speak with them and provide any requested documents, provided you discuss the documents first with your attorney. Be prompt when returning phone calls and remain engaged in the process. The more they see you taking an interest in the case and in your children, the better you will be portrayed in the GAL report.
Never engage in derogatory comments regarding the other parent. If there are legitimate issues you wish to raise with the GAL, you should allow your attorney to raise them. You want to focus on your good qualities and stress how your parenting style is in the best interest of your children. Let your attorney get down in the mud relating the negative issues about the other parent. One of the reasons you’re paying an attorney is so that you may look good, and they can shoulder any blame.
Hiring A Family Law Attorney For Child Custody Matters
Our Virginia Beach family law attorneys at Garrett Law Group, PLC have taken the courses and have qualified to be a guardian ad litem. Judges of the local courts routinely appoint our attorneys to represent children’s interests in contested child custody cases. We know the issues, and we know how to work with GALs to get you the best result possible in your child custody case.
In Virginia Beach, VA, contact Garrett Law Group, PLC (757) 422-0195 for a free consultation regarding your child custody situation.