In contested custody cases the court will often appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL). The attorneys of our firm have been appointed as a GAL in highly contentious and complex custody cases. A GAL is supposed to be a lawyer that is paid by both parents to represent the interests of the child in a disputed custody case. The GAL is supposed to investigate the circumstances, the parents, the child and make recommendations to the court on what is in the best interests of the child.
A GAL can be helpful and frustrating. There are many times where you need someone to investigate details. This is where a GAL can really help. However, a GAL can be frustrating as well because they aren’t really experts who are subject to discovery and cross examination in a traditional sense. Usually the courts rubber stamp what a GAL does, which also is frustrating for families.
If one is faced with a GaL you must know how you need to combat against negative information brought in by a GAL. There are statutes that do deal with GaLs and their role in the court but current practice makes the use of a GAL very challenging for families, especially when you disagree with the GaL. Thus, be prepared.
There are 3 main points to keep in mind when challenging a GAL.
1. Know that it will require litigation. If you dispute a GaL’s report be prepared for litigation.
2. Use other experts. You usually will have to get other experts involved to challenge a GAL. Courts give great deference to a GAL and so you have to be prepared to battle with experts to prove why the GaL is wrong!
3. Take immediate action. The longer you leave a GAL unchallenged the harder it will be to fix it. Don’t delay act immediately!