A is a trained and certified individual appointed by the court to act as a neutral party who represents the best interest of the child (or children) in a custody or related proceeding. Often a GAL will be appointed or requested if the parties to a divorce cannot come to an agreement regarding a parenting plan, there has been potential abuse of the child, or the proceedings are so complex or hostile that the judge does not trust the individual attorneys of the parents to represent the best interests of the child.
Although a GAL does not have to be an attorney (like an (AMC)), a GAL is still given substantial responsibilities after appointed. In addition, a GAL’s opinion often has a significant impact on the way a court decides a case. If a GAL has been either appointed or requested in your case, it is important to note that a GAL does not work for either party to the dispute, and only represents the best interest of the child. A GAL is neutral, and as such, each party must split payment for the GAL, finances permitting. If you cannot afford appointment of a GAL but believe one is necessary to assist your child, the state may pay a GAL’s fees. Overall, a GAL is tasked with undertaking the following and presenting the findings to the court:
Because guardians ad litem are court appointed, whether because the court deems it necessary or one of the parties made a motion for appointment, the judge has the authority to limit the scope of a guardian’s role or even suggest that an AMC be hired to represent the actual legal interest of a child. For example, a judge may determine that a guardian needs to be appointed solely to make a recommendation as to who should have medical proxy in regard to a sick child. If the child has an articulable legal interest in his or her own body, the court may then have to appoint an AMC to represent a child’s legal interest in court. A GAL may not do so, as only an attorney can represent the legal rights of a child.
If you are preparing to file for divorce and anticipate a difficult child custody battle ahead, contact the to discuss how petitioning for appointment of a GAL or hiring an AMC can help promote the best interests of your children. Call our Stamford office at (203) 348-2465 or for a no-risk, confidential consultation.