What is a Guardian ad Litem and why is the GAL Report so important?



What is a Guardian ad Litem and why is the GAL Report so important?

In cases involving questions of child custody and parenting, Judges will often appoint a Guardian ad Litem investigator, more commonly known as a GAL.

GALs can be attorneys, mental health professionals, or court probation officers. The GAL’s job is to conduct a thorough investigation, interview the parents, interview key third parties, review important documents, and provide a comprehensive report to the Court. The final GAL report will include a detailed summary of all the relevant evidence, facts, and findings as well as specific recommendations about the most appropriate parenting plan and schedule.

Of all the evidence provided for the Judge to help them decide child-related issues, GAL reports are by far the most important. It is actually quite common in many cases for Judges to completely adopt the findings and recommendations of the GAL in the final judgment. This practical assumption makes the GAL report a strong tool and it is important to be fully involved throughout the process.

The first step is making sure the correct GAL is appointed. Judges will give parties an opportunity to jointly select a GAL and will only appoint one from a list if the parties are not able to agree. Having experience with different GALs and how different Judges interpret their investigations is important to help you select the most appropriate GAL for your specific issues. Once a GAL is appointed, you need to be open and forthcoming throughout the investigation. The more supporting information you are able to provide the GAL for your positions, the more likely they will be to issue a report in your favor.

Once the GAL completes the final report, we will critically review the findings and develop evidence and arguments to either strengthen those portions we agree with or weaken the parts that are not in your favor. This can be accomplished by subpoenaing the GAL’s notes, deposing the GAL, interviewing other people listed in the report, and subpoenaing additional supporting documents. Once developed, this evidence is central to our strategies in future evidentiary hearings and the final trial.

Our attorneys are experienced in helping clients through complex child-related cases. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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