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What is the Role of a Guardian ad Litem in a Custody Case?

In the context of a custody case, a Guardian ad Litem (or “GAL” for short) is an attorney appointed by the Court to advocate on behalf of the minor child(ren) in a custody case and their best interests.  The GAL will typically interview the parties, the child(ren), and any relevant third parties, such as other relatives of the parties or the child(ren); teachers; therapists; doctors; and anyone else with relevant information that they feel will assist them in determining the child(ren)’s best interests.

The GAL will also review relevant evidence, including but not limited to texts and emails between the parties; expert reports from psychologists, doctors, and other professionals; child(ren)’s report cards; photos; criminal records; and medical records.  The parties and their attorneys will have the opportunity to present relevant evidence to the GAL to review.

The GAL will prepare a report for the parties and the Court, outlining the custody arrangements and other provisions (for example, schooling) that they believe to be in the child(ren)’s best interests and that they believe should be included in the parties’ custody Order.  The Court will respect the GAL’s opinion, but the Court is not bound by the GAL’s opinion; it is possible that the eventual custody Order will differ from the GAL’s recommendations.

The GAL may also testify in a trial or hearing.  If the GAL testifies, both parties (or their attorneys, if they are represented) will have the opportunity to examine (i.e. question) the GAL.  Oftentimes, the judge will also want to ask the GAL some questions.

If you are interested in learning more about GALs, contact Tanner Law Offices at (717) 731-8114 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.