Most parents are unlikely to have known about or come across a guardian ad litem (GAL). They only find out about this profession when they are going through a custody battle. Without an attorney, custody cases can be complicated. A child’s needs must be satisfied by whatever custody arrangement the judge or the child’s parents (if they can agree) decide on.
In child custody cases, judges or parents may sometimes have to turn to a Guardian Ad Litem to ensure that a child’s best interests are met.
At Boise Family Law, we have experienced Boise Guardian ad Litem attorneys thanks to numerous years of practice. If you are battling for your child’s custody or dealing with any other family law matter, call the child custody lawyers at Boise Family Law today at 208-504-2837 to get started on your case.
Table of Contents
What Do I Need To Know About Guardian ad Litem?
Guardian ad Litems, or if you like “GALs,” are special court appointees responsible for representing children or incapacitated adults’ rights in court. They act as the child’s voice in court. A court may assign a Guardian Ad Litem to represent a child’s interests in the event of a divorce, custody dispute, abuse, neglect, or paternity case.
Guardian ad Litems are trained professionals who often double up as attorneys. However, unlike attorneys who represent the parents during a custody, divorce, or paternity trial, GALs serve as the child’s advocate in these cases.
What Does The Guardian ad Litem do?
The Guardian Ad Litem conducts in-depth investigations on all aspects of a case. He or she prepares a report containing the investigations’ findings and recommends to the court what should happen to the child. As the court’s investigator, GALs work in the child’s best interest by:
- Speaking with and advising the child.
- Interviewing the prospective guardian(s).
- Talking to the prospective guardian’s attorney.
- Requesting additional evaluations if necessary.
- Presenting the investigation’s findings to the court.
- Recommending a custody and placement order to the court.
- Completing other duties at the court’s request.
The GAL also looks at various documents and information that helps them with their investigation and recommendations.
Every Guardian Ad Litem is unique and slightly different. That is why our attorneys at Boise Family Law specialize in specific counties to get to know the Guardians Ad Litem that regularly work in the counties.
What Does The Guardian ad Litem NOT Do?
While there are many things that a Guardian Ad litem does for children, there also some things that they don’t do. A GAL cant:
- Flout the rules of ethics of lawyers – Being an attorney, a Guardian Ad Litem must adhere to all ethical rules that bind attorneys. For instance, a GAL may not offer false evidence knowingly or communicate with a party who is represented by counsel.
- Present hearsay evidence – A Guardian Ad Litem cannot offer gossip and rumors as evidence. Any third-party statements must come from the individuals in court, and the Guardian Ad Litem can’t offer these statements in a written or oral report to the court.
- Serve as a witness – The laws governing the performance of GALs for children prohibit guardians ad litem from being sworn in as witnesses.
- Defy the rules of evidence – Since a guardian ad litem is an attorney, he or she must follow the evidentiary rules that bind every lawyer. A GAL can’t present unauthenticated documents & evidence or ask witnesses leading questions when examining them.
At Boise Family Law, we are well-versed in family law matters and know what roles a Guardian Ad Litem can and can’t do. If you are getting divorced, in a paternity battle, or fighting for your child’s custody, Boise Family Law may be able to help.
Who Will Serve As The Guardian ad Litem In My Case?
Usually, Guardians ad Litem are lawyers. However, any individual who meets the private guardian ad litem statute requirements can be a guardian in cases involving visitation and custody. Guardians Ad Litem, who are not attorneys, are known as “Lay guardians.”
A lay guardian can be an individual with a background in child counseling or social work or a retired school teacher or magistrate. The quality of Guardians Ad Litem varies a lot depending on work ethic, temperament, and experience.
Who Pays For The Guardian ad Litem?
In most states, the Guardian Ad Litem is paid by the parents even if the Guardian Ad Litem is a court appointee. Some local courts reserve GAL fees for low-income families. The parties’ retainer (initial payment), the GAL’s hourly rate, and the guardian’s maximum authorized fee will be specified by the court order appointing the GAL.
You should know that GAL fees can be very costly— sometimes as much or more than attorney fees. Our attorneys from Boise Family Law can help you research the costs of a guardian ad litem before you request one and have you prepared to pay the fees.
What Should I Do When A Guardian ad Litem Is Appointed In My Case?
When a judge appoints a guardian ad litem in your case, there are several things you should do to be on their good side. You should:
Communicate and Cooperate
When a judge appoints a guardian ad litem in your child custody case, you must cooperate and maintain proper communication. Maintaining a good relationship with the GAL is vital since you will be working with the GAL for some time. Inform the GAD on everything and be honest always.
Make sure that you are always reachable by phone and if you are unable to take the Guardian Ad Litem’s phone call, remember to return their call in good time. Also, ensure you inform your GAL if you change your phone number or contact details.
Provide all Necessary Documents
Provide the GAL with all the necessary documents and information to aid with investigations. Make sure you make copies for yourself, the GAL, and the court. Be sure to include: medical records, school/daycare records, pay stubs, criminal records, Child Protective Services reports, counseling/therapy records, records of court cases involving anyone living in the house, etc.
Accept Evaluation/Screening Requests
It is extremely vital to cooperate when the guardian ad litem requests you to take parental fitness evaluations, drug screens, and psychological evaluations. Regarding drug tests, missing a drug test is as good as failing one.
Always be Prepared for Random Home Visits
The Guardian Ad Litem may pop in unannounced every now and then to view the child/caretaker interactions and to observe the child’s living environment. Always make sure your house is clean and suitable for a child’s inhabitance.
Don’t put on a show to impress the GAL when he or she comes to visit because the GAL will be able to tell. Act normally as you would in the GAL’s absence. Also, get rid of people who don’t live at the house during home visits.
Contact Boise Family Law Today
Having a stranger evaluate your parenting ability and make a decision that will carry a lot of weight in court is undoubtedly uncomfortable, mainly because the evaluation will be done in a short period and using a small sample size.
It is hard to imagine that a stranger’s decision could have such an impact on your ability to see your child in the future. However, since the welfare of every child is the priority, these systems must exist. Although it isn’t a perfect system, you must present your parenting abilities to the best of your ability.