Dealing with a Guardian Ad Litem
Sometimes, in the midst of a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed to represent the best interests of the child or children. This may happen for a variety of reasons, at the request of a parent or at the judge’s discretion. These legal professionals act as an advocate for the minor(s), conducting an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding custody and making recommendations to the court. It is important to your custody case that you understand the role of the GAL and how to best communicate with him or her.
Who are GALs?
In the state of Florida, a GAL can be an attorney in good standing with the state bar or a volunteer advocate who is certified by the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program. Generally, the use of volunteer GALs is reserved for cases of alleged abuse against a child. Once appointed, the GAL must receive copies of all pleadings, motions and notices filed during the case. He or she can then respond to any filings as an attorney for the child or children. The GAL is also allowed to attend any deposition or scheduled court appearance.
Why was a GAL Appointed in my Case?
The appointment of a GAL is not an attack on your parenting skills and it does not automatically mean your children are abused. When judges make determinations about custody, they want to ensure that they are acting in the child’s best interest. When there are two parents, giving dramatically different testimonies, it can become hard to discern the truth. The GAL is appointed to seek out the truth, free from any personal agendas or bias towards one parent or the other. To complete this task, the GAL may speak with extended family members, babysitters, teachers and other caregivers. She is also authorized by the court to speak directly with the child, in a confidential setting without parental supervision. Though these actions may feel like unwelcome intrusions, it is important to remember that the GAL’s sole purpose is to make a determination about the best interests of your child.
How Do I Work with the GAL?
When working with the GAL, be sure to:
- – Treat the GAL with respect and professionalism;
- – Keep scheduled appointments and arrive on time;
- – Always remain calm during interviews and conversations with the GAL. If you do not agree with something she said, express your disagreement in a calm and constructive manner;
- – Refrain from bad-mouthing the other parent. This type of behavior can make you appear uncooperative and unwilling to foster a relationship between your child and the other parent;
- – Be honest. There is a lot at stake in a custody dispute, but giving false information can prove detrimental to your case if discovered; and
- – Admit to your parenting mistakes and get help if available. If you struggle with an addiction or have significant financial problems, own your situation and seek outside resources to demonstrate your commitment to your kids.
If you are in the midst of a custody dispute, the attorneys of Vanessa L. Prieto, LLC can assist you in your case. Located in Fort Lauderdale, our office serves Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. Call us today at 954-800-2362 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.