Here are some basic tips on working with GAL's who have been appointed by the court to investigate and make recommendations in your parenting dispute.
Cooperate with the Investigation
When a GAL is appointed to your case, be sure to provide information as requested in a timely manner. Be sure to address any issues of concern you may have but keep the facts relevant to the current matter before the court. Don't be overly negative about the other parent or over emphasize that parent's bad character. Failure to cooperate with the GAL could result in an unfavorable recommendation because the GAL has only the other parent's information to rely upon.
Provide references who know you and your children
If asked for parenting references by the GAL, make sure you are providing references who have information that is relevant to your case. For instance, it would not be helpful to list your best friend who lives 2000 miles away who hasn't seen you in 3 years or only sees you once a year. Also, family members often do not make good references unless they have particularly useful information (i.e. they babysit for the child or you live with them or are witness to other behaviors that the GAL should be aware of). The best references are those individuals who can provide unbiased observations to the GAL, such a babysitter, neighbor, or friend to both parents.
Provide documentation to support your position (don't rely on GAL to obtain them)
GAL's generally have discretion in how they handle their investigations and may not contact every reference or source you provide unless the GAL deems it necessary to his/her investigation. Even if you have provided contact information for a source that you think would provide vital information that supports your position, you may want to obtain that source's records or statement yourself and provide them to the GAL. This way, you ensure that the GAL has the information to use to support a recommendation and you could use those same records later in court to challenge the GAL's findings to if necessary. Caution: Providing too many records could cause important facts to get lost in the volume of documentation, you should limit documentation to ONLY relevant and important facts that the GAL would most likely have to rely on
Only copy the GAL on relevant e-mails
Don't copy a GAL on all e-mails between the parents, this can lead to more important issues getting overlooked and not addressed. Instead, provide specific e-mails to the GAL that illustrate a particular issue you would like the GAL to address, such as communication issues or disagreement between the parties about a legal decision to be made such as medication or exchange problems.
Don't rely solely on the GAL's report and recommendations
Do not rely solely on a GAL's report; while a favorable recommendation may help your position, it is no substitute to an Attorney who will advocate for you in the court. Your attorney is in the best position to review the GAL's file for information to support or challenge a GAL's recommendations.
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