Sometimes the court needs to appoint someone to represent the best interests of a minor child or an incapacitated adult. A guardian ad litem fills this role. GALs, as they are often called, must have comprehensive training and meet the guidelines set by the courts they serve. They are officers of the court and act as an impartial advisor but have no decision-making authority; that power remains with the presiding judge.
There are different types of GALs. Some are appointed to determine whether an adult is incapacitated, others investigate child abuse, neglect, or foster care issues, and some provide guidance on parenting plans in a family law setting. The guardian ad litem (GAL) performs an investigation related to the court’s purpose and provides a detailed report based on their review of relevant documents and interviews. The guardian ad litem (GAL) becomes a party to the case serving as the child’s voice to the court as to the child’s best interests.
A guardian ad litem (GAL) will speak with everyone who has significant impact on the child’s life. Typically, these conversations occur in an informal setting one-on-one with parents, relatives, therapists, teachers, friends’ parents, clergy, neighbors, and others who may have relevant knowledge. The guardian ad litem almost always spends time alone with the child to better understand their home life.
Family law guardian ad litem’s (GAL’s), known as a Title 26 guardian ad litem, investigates child custody disputes and issues concerning children in family law cases. They are often appointed in high-conflict cases and cases where there are mental health, domestic violence, or substance abuse concerns.
Yes. There are many different types of evaluators. Sometimes, a full investigation is not needed. A simple evaluation with an expert may suffice, for example, in a drug and alcohol evaluation or a psychological evaluation. These tests could be required independently of a full investigation or as part of one.
The parties may agree to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) or parenting evaluator (PE), or the court may appoint one themselves. There are also family court services investigations for parenting or domestic violence evaluations or court-appointed special advocates. The cost of these experts varies, as does the depth of the recommendation or report provided.
A GAL and a parenting evaluator are similar in many ways. For one, they are both professionals appointed to evaluate the best interests of the child where the parents are unable to reach an agreement. Additionally, both professionals could be needed in situations where there is high conflict or there are other issues involved such as a child’s special needs.
A parenting evaluator does not represent the child but instead investigates the parents and child. They may perform certain psychological testing or have another certified professional provide such testing.
Like a guardians ad litem, a parenting evaluator gives recommendations to the court regarding the children’s residential schedule. They identify each parent’s relative parenting strengths and weaknesses and integrate these competencies and deficiencies into the psychological and developmental needs of the child. They are not a party to the court proceeding and serve as more of a neutral expert witness.
If you want to understand the role of a parenting evaluator or GAL or leverage our team of guardian ad litems to review the findings in your case, call us to schedule a consultation.