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Monday, February 18, 2013

GALs (Guardian Ad Litem) -- when and why

Guardian Ad Litem (GALs)

By Shara Herr

Today I had the chance to speak with our Family Law attorney, Stephen Salweirak, discussing the topic of GALs and their importance in difficult Divorce/Child Custody cases involving neglect or abuse of children.

What is the role of a GAL?

In some cases, especially those involving abuse or neglect, the children involved have rights and interests they are unable to protect on their own. The GAL provides the voice for these children, protecting their safety and needs and finding the best options specific to the case. Good GALs will not only interview the child in their home environment, but also take them out of their typical environment so the child is able to speak freely about any neglect/abuse in the home. They may also interview teachers, other child care providers, family members and anyone else that would have relevant information about the child’s best interests.

These attorneys are appointed by the court, and are required to have training specific to GAL advocacy. Your attorney may make recommendations to the court as to who is best qualified to represent the child. This is important because the expense of the GAL is often court ordered to be split between the two parents and may be very costly. In such a case, your attorney would review with you the options and rates of qualified GALs.

Preparing for GAL investigations

The Guardian Ad Litem is vital to the case. He or She investigate extensively, and then report back to the court, recommending where and with whom the child is going to be placed. It is important to speak with your attorney and create a checklist of things to be discussed with the GAL prior to any home visits to ensure they get the most important information about the child’s needs. Maintaining a good relationship with your GAL is very important.

“The GAL is charged by the court with the task of representing the best interests of the child, and it is important to demonstrate that you put the same interests above all else, even if it means tolerating the GAL’s occasional incursion into your home,” –Stephen Salwierak, Esq.

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