In some legal proceedings involving children, a judge may appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to represent the best interests of the children and provide the court with a recommendation. If a GAL is involved in your case, you may be wondering what role they play, how much power they have, and whether you need to cooperate with them.
At Jones Family Law Group, LLC, we understand that your family is the most important thing to you. Having a foreign party involved with your children may seem overwhelming and confusing, but the attorneys at our firm are here to answer any questions you may have. During a private consultation, one of our compassionate child custody attorneys will discuss your situation with you at length and offer sound advice about working with a GAL. Contact Jones Family Law Group, LLC today to learn more about the role of a Guardian ad Litem in Des Peres.
Role of the Guardian ad Litem
When a judge must make a decision on matters involving children in a custody or divorce case, allows them to appoint a GAL to advocate for the children’s best interests. A GAL’s input could be valuable if accusations have been made about your parenting fitness, or you disagree with your co-parent about issues like support, schedules, school choice, medical decisions, or religious practices. If a party alleges abuse or neglect of the children, the court is required to appoint a GAL for the children.
The GAL’s job is to investigate the situation and assess what best serves the children’s interests. The GAL may meet with your children and interview other people involved in the case. They will speak with you and your co-parent and might even speak with friends, teachers, therapists, grandparents, stepparents, and mental health providers regarding the situation and the children’s needs. They may review records such as report cards, medical records, and therapy records.
The GAL is a lawyer who advocates for the child’s best interests, but that does not mean they must recommend the outcome the child wants. There is no attorney/client privilege with a GAL, meaning they are able to disclose anything relevant they learn in their investigations to help the judge make a decision. An attorney serving Des Peres could help you understand the Guardian ad Litem’s role in your case.
Should You Cooperate with the Guardian ad Litem?
Guardian ad Litems have broad powers to collect information from any available source. Their presence might seem intrusive, and you might distrust the GAL and dislike their involvement in your case. Such feelings are understandable, as no one likes a stranger looking into their private family affairs. However, it is important to know that the GAL is neutral, meaning they do not take sides between parents in a divorce or paternity case.
However, in their final report, the Guardian ad Litem will recommend a solution that they believe best supports the children’s interests. The opinion reflects their independent assessment of your situation, but it might favor one side over the other. The judge considers the GAL’s recommendation, but it is just one piece of evidence they weigh.
You should cooperate with the Guardian ad Litem to the best of your ability and be completely honest. A diligent GAL will check and confirm any information they receive. Providing the GAL with false information, withholding relevant information when asked a direct question, or coaching a child about what to say, could backfire. If you are concerned about speaking with a Guardian ad Litem or their role in your case, contact Jones Family Law Group, LLC to get advice from a knowledgeable Des Peres attorney.
Understanding the Children’s Best Interests Standard
The Guardian ad Litem must determine what solution supports the children’s best interests and advocate for that result. An attorney serving Des Peres could help you understand what it means to act in your children’s best interests and how a Guardian ad Litem’s role supports that notion.
Children usually benefit from having meaningful relationships with both parents. At the same time, exposure to domestic violence, drug or alcohol misuse, or criminal behavior can be damaging to children. If there is a question about whether a parent is fit to have custody or unsupervised visitation, a GAL will consider the nature of the problem, the parent’s willingness to acknowledge and address it, and other factors when making a recommendation.
Your emotional connection to your children and capacity to put their needs ahead of yours is critical. A GAL will assess each parent’s willingness to impose discipline and consistency, their ability to meet the child’s educational needs, and whether they can avoid alienating the child against the other parent when deciding what supports the child’s best interests.
Learn More About the Role of a Guardian ad Litem from a Des Peres Attorney
As a parent, you believe you are your child’s best advocate. It can be unnerving when a judge appoints a stranger for that role.
If you have concerns about the role of a Guardian ad Litem in your case, contact our firm to speak with a Des Peres lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney at Jones Family Law Group, LLC could help you work productively with the GAL to achieve the most favorable result possible for your children. Call today to get started.