Guardians ad Litem: What are they and what's the point?

ASG Blog 2.jpgWhen parents going through divorce or custody issues are finding it difficult to come to an agreement and it seems their case is turning out to be more and more contested it has become common for one or both parties to request the appointment of a GAL, or Guardian ad Litem. A Guardian ad Litem within the Probate and Family Court is someone appointed by a judge to investigate child custody cases. A GAL may also be asked to make recommendations to the judge about what is in the child or children's best interests.

There are many areas a judge may ask a GAL to investigate. A GAL may be appointed to investigate and report on some or all of the following: custody, domestic violence, mental health, parenting plan, substance and alcohol abuse, or removal. The GAL process typically involves interviewing each party, observing and/or interviewing the child, reviewing documents, and/or interviewing other people who may have relevant information (also called "collaterals").

There are two different types of GALs appointed in the Probate and Family Court. A Category F GAL is appointed to investigate and report just the facts. A Category E GAL, in addition to investigating and reporting facts, evaluates the facts.

What you need to know if you're thinking about asking for a GAL:

  • Either party, or both, may be ordered to pay for the GAL, and failure to make timely payment could be considered a contempt
    Depending on the timing of the request, a GAL appointment could make your case last longer
  • GALs often interview collaterals such as teachers and doctors. Those interviews may make it easier to get the collaterals' opinions in front of a judge than if you do not have a GAL
  • The GAL process is not confidential, which means that the other side and the judge will likely be made aware of anything you tell the GAL

Have any questions? At Law Offices of Andrew Guisbond, Attorney is a certified Category F Guardian ad Litem in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court. Contact us and she will be happy to answer any questions.

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