A Guardian Ad Litem (or GAL) is an attorney appointed in cases where there is either a paternity allegation or when there are custodial issues that require the children to have their own attorney. A GAL represents the children and makes a recommendation to the Court for custody that they believe is in the children’s “best interest.” Many people wonder how to act around a GAL, what to tell them, how to make a good impression, and how to best serve the interests of the children while also preserving their own rights.
It is helpful to remember two things: 1) A GAL is a person just like you and me. He or she is not perfect, and they are not the perfect parent (no one is). They understand that people are stressed in a divorce, and they understand that that stress makes it difficult for parents and families to function. This understanding is essential but must also be tempered with this reminder, or the “second thing to remember”: the GAL has a lot of influence with the Court on custody. Many times judges will look at the GAL’s recommendation for custody and give that a lot of credence and weight. After all, the GAL is tasked with looking after and making a recommendation for “the children’s best interest”.
So what does this mean for your meeting with the GAL? It means be yourself, but don’t bad mouth the other spouse. Be honest, answer their questions openly – they understand there are issues in every divorce – but remember that the GAL is not there as a sounding board for you and they are not your advocate. A GAL wants to know the issues, but they also want to know the children are protected. Most of all, a GAL wants to know that you are looking out for the best interests of the children as they are.