Dannenbaum Law Firm, PLLC

How To Win Your Custody Case: How To Deal With The Guardian Ad Litem; Part 1

As mentioned previously, a guardian ad litem (GAL) may be appointed by the court to represent your children and investigate you, the other parent, the children, and the home itself. The purpose of the GAL is to render an opinion on important matters such as whether the parties should have joint legal custody or sole legal custody, what the parenting schedule should be, whether you, the other parent, and/or the children should enter therapy, co-parenting counseling, substance abuse counseling, parenting classes, anger management classes.

GALs may be appointed by the court on its own; GALs may be appointed on the request of one party.

The GAL will necessarily intrude into your life. The GAL will talk to your children without you being present. The GAL will come to your house-sometime unannounced and have the right to just come in without your invitation. Once inside your house, the GAL may open your refrigerator, closets, cupboards, and have the run of your house to check out the cleanliness, what kind of food you have, the living quarters of you and your kids, whether other people are living in your place. The GAL will have complete access to your physical and mental health records and be permitted to talk to your medical providers.

You may feel that the GAL is against you, particularly because the other parent may tell the GAL negative things about you and your parenting skills. The GAL will then confront you with the other parent's allegations. This may seem as if the GAL believe the other parent and is against you. Don't assume this. The GAL is doing his/her job by following up on allegations. Of course, you can tell the GAL about the negative aspects of the other parent. But here you need to thread very carefully. State your concerns about the other parent in a factual and non-emotional manner. Do not talk about the breakdown of the relationship. Do not attack the other parent. Do not show anger towards the other parent. Just give the facts. Express any concerns you have about the other parent. Be specific. Present any evidence (documents, witnesses) that support your facts. Give the GAL names of people that have seen the other parent. Cooperate with the GAL. You may be upset that the GAL has so much power over your case and is able to invade your privacy, this is a reality. If you have any problems or issues with the GAL, do not address them with him or her. Talk to your lawyer about how to handle and what to say to the GAL.

Remember, the GAL is an important person in your case. After the judge, the GAL may be the second most important person. The judge appointed this particular GAL. The judge has confidence in the GAL and will usually give significant weight to the GAL'S opinions. So treat the GAL as if he/she were the judge in your case.

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