A Guardian Ad Litem(GAL) is a professionally trained person appointed by the judge in a case to represent the interests of a child, and advise the court with respect to custody and parenting time issues. The Guardian Ad Litem is not an attorney, though some attorneys are also trained as Guardians Ad Litem.
The Guardian Ad Litem conducts an independent investigation to help determine facts relevant to the 13 best interest factors. The Guardian Ad Litem determines these facts by: 1) interviewing the parents, caregivers and others who know the child such as school teachers / counselors; 2) meeting with and observing the child in his/her home; 3) reviewing any relevant documents such as school records, medical records and counseling records; and 3) anything else the GAL feels is necessary to get a full understanding of the child’s situation.
The Guardian Ad Litem takes all of the relevant information he/she has gathered and presents it to the court in the form of a written report. Although a Guardian Ad Litem does not have the power to decide which parent should be awarded custody of the child, the judge will rely very heavily upon the GAL’s recommendations. In my experience, a judge will almost always follow the Guardian Ad Litem’s recommendations regarding custody. For this reason, it is very important that you do everything possible to present a positive picture to the GAL. You should return the GAL’s phone calls promptly, clean your house thoroughly before the GAL comes for a visit, make sure the cupboards are stocked with plenty of healthy food, and stay fully focused on the GAL during his/her visit. By taking these simple steps you will be that much closer to presenting a positive picture of yourself and your situation to the court through the eyes of the Guardian Ad Litem.