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What is a Guardian ad Litem in Family Law Cases?

Many contested divorces and custody cases involve someone called a Guardian ad litem, or GAL for short. Many of our clients don’t know what purpose this individual serves. At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we have worked many cases which have a guardian appointed, and our Galveston and League City family law attorney answers some key questions below.

Why Does My Case Need a Guardian ad Litem?

When it comes to contested custody cases, judges need help reviewing relevant information about a family from an objective perspective. The GAL is an agent of the court in this regard. He or she will collect information that will help a judge decide custody.

What Does the Guardian Do?

A GAL typically performs an investigation, which can include:

  • Interviewing the parents and child
  • Reviewing medical records
  • Talking with a child’s teachers or doctor
  • Requesting drug or psychological testing of the parents and/or the child

This investigation helps the Guardian better understand the family situation as it currently exists. The guardian then creates a report conveying to the judge vital information that informs the judge’s decision on custody. In Texas, the touchstone for custody decisions is the child’s best interests, and the GAL report helps judges with that determination.

Who Serves as the Guardian in My Case?

Many GALs are lawyers, but others can serve, such as volunteer advocates or other adults with the necessary training.

What is the Difference between a Guardian ad Litem and an Attorney ad Litem?

An attorney ad litem could actually do both roles. Texas Family Code section 107.001 defines an attorney ad litem as a lawyer who provides legal services and owes the child loyalty and confidentiality. The law also says that an attorney must represent the child’s express wishes if he or she is competent enough to express them. Someone serving as only a GAL can push for what they believe is the child’s best interests, but they don’t serve in a legal capacity.

How Important is the GAL’s Opinions?

Very. The law allows the GAL to testify in court and offer an opinion to the judge based on the information uncovered during the investigation. This means the GAL can make a recommendation regarding custody.

Many judges look to GALs to provide objective information about a family. They usually suspect that evidence presented by the parents is self-serving. Experienced GALs have built relationships with judges and their opinions are weighed heavily.

Will My Case Have a Guardian ad Litem?

It’s possible. The odds increase if you have a contested custody hearing. Many parents can resolve their disagreements without needing to go through litigation. Mediation might be helpful. If you can’t, however, then a judge hearing your case might appoint a GAL.

Call Tad Nelson & Associates Today

The guardian ad litem’s report is not the final word on your child’s best interest. We can review a report and point out its shortcomings, if necessary, while presenting evidence of our own. Call our firm to prepare for a custody fight.