A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is an advocate, usually an attorney, who is appointed to represent the best interests of a child during a contested divorce process. A GAL is appointed by a judge typically after a request, or motion, is presented by the attorney for either parent. A GAL is not appointed in every divorce case but will probably be appointed if custody is especially contentious or if serious questions arise regarding the well-being of a child.
Often, the term GAL is construed as someone who represents a child – someone who is an attorney acting on behalf of a child. In some states, the guardian ad litem acts as part investigator and part advisor and assists the court in determining what custody and visitation arrangements will be in the best interests of the child. The GAL has broad flexibility to speak with each parent, the child, family members, and even school officials and counselors. After conducting a thorough investigation, the GAL will submit a report and issue a formal recommendation to the judge.
If a GAL is appointed to your case, it is vitally important that you work with your attorney and work with the GAL to make sure that he or she has all of the information and tools necessary to complete a thorough investigation and to draft a fair and accurate report for the judge.