Guardian ad Litems, or GALs, are court-appointed individuals whose primary purpose is to act on behalf of a child (or incapacitated adult) when necessary. It is difficult for children to have a voice in family matters. Still, it is of utmost priority to the families and the courts to prioritize their well-being, especially in custody cases. Having a skilled GAL in place can help give the child a voice.
A GAL is typically a well-trained and skilled professional who advocates for your child when they need it the most. Family issues can bring to light intense emotions, and children sometimes choose not to share with their immediate family what their thoughts or needs are in times of turmoil. A GAL can learn more about them and utilize the information they have learned to become a fierce advocate for the child.
What Will a Guardian ad Litem Do in an Orange County Custody Case?
One of the main goals of a Guardian ad Litem is to determine the specific family dynamics within your family to uphold the child’s best interests and make them a priority.
Typically, they gather information through interviews with both parents and the child. Some of these interviews or meetings maybe with just the child, to provide a safe space to share their fears or wishes.
Extended family, teachers, therapists, and more may also be interviewed to continue to build a comprehensive view of the child’s life and what is best for their well-being.
A GAL is trained to gather a thorough picture of the child’s life by piecing together information from other professionals in their lives and those who interact with the child often. This picture will help the GAL to be a fierce advocate for the child moving forward throughout court proceedings.
How Long will a Guardian ad Litem Be a Part of the Process?
Each family will have a unique makeup and a reason for needing a Guardian ad Litem. Sometimes, a GAL works with a family for a week or two; in other cases, it can be months or more before they feel they have formed a good picture of the child’s life and the best result for them.
GALs can be utilized in several cases, so their duties will vary. For example, if there is one child involved and neither parent has a history of abuse, the evidence that the GAL will need to gather will be minimal and shouldn’t take long for them to put together.
Suppose the child comes from a home with several other children in it. There may also be past abuse or neglect allegations and other domestic issues in the house with the parents or other children. In this case, the process will take significantly longer to piece together.
The GAL may also be involved throughout the process of custody which can take months. Each case will vary with timelines and the necessity of their skills.
What Will a Guardian ad Litem Be Looking For?
There are several aspects that the GAL will be looking for in a custody case. They will want to ensure that every angle, from home life to school life, to therapy or extracurricular activities, is accounted for.
They will thoroughly examine the children’s relationship with each parent, any siblings in or outside the home, and their relationships with extended family.
The GAL will also want to review medical records to find any patterns that may cause alarm. They may work with therapists to determine if issues aren’t brought up during their meetings with the children or family.
They will also closely review the physical and mental health of each parent. These interviews can help them determine whether both parents can provide a safe and secure home environment for the child moving forward.
As an advocate for the child, the GAL will also try to gather the child’s wishes regarding where they would like to reside most of the time. In most cases, judges wish to keep children out of the courtroom, so during the interviews with the GAL, if it is determined whether or not the child has a preference, they can present their opinions in court on their behalf without exposing the children to the court proceedings.
Who Can be a Guardian ad Litem in California?
The courts appoint a GAL in a custody case. In most cases, they are a neutral third party, such as an attorney or a social worker. Selecting a neutral third party helps to ensure the authenticity of the information provided to the courts regarding the child’s well-being.
A psychologist, counselor, or psychologist may also be appointed GAL. In some rare cases, an unlicensed person may be appointed as a GAL if no licensed individuals are available. The courts may require child development training for an unlicensed individual to become a GAL during a custody case.
How Can a Family Law Lawyer Help?
Child custody cases can quickly become complex due to the nature of the information, the emotions involved, and the outcome. It can be challenging to sift through the instinctual emotions that arise regarding our children.
We understand and respect that and are trained to help you and your family. With years of vast experience in these cases, we can confidently assist you with your needs.