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5 Tips For Working With A Guardian Ad Litem

A Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL, is a person appointed by the court to act as a neutral third party and make recommendations to the judge in the best interests of the children in divorce or child custody cases.  The GAL’s recommendations carry significant weight with the court because the GAL typically conducts an investigation before they come before the court.

A guardian ad litem does not have to be your enemy. Always remember they are there to advocate for your children. Here are some simple tips that you should keep in mind if a GAL is assigned to your case.

Remember: if a GAL is assigned to your case, it is important that you maintain an attorney that can help guide you through the process. An experienced attorney, like the Family Matters Law Group, can help to ensure that your interests are represented fairly.

First Impressions at the GAL Office

As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This is definitely the case with a GAL. As soon as the GAL is appointed, you want to be the first person they speak with. This way, your story is the first one they hear, and that will make a big impression. This is your chance to show the GAL what a responsible, good-hearted parent you are and why you are the best choice in a custody case.

To that end, the best place to make that first impression is the GAL’s office. By meeting there, you can buy yourself some time for that all important home visit. Treat the GAL office visit like a job interview. Dress for success and come prepared; bring medical records, report cards, and recommendation letters from friends and family. Make that first impression really count!

First Impressions at the Home Visit

Before the GAL pays a home visit (and they will), take the time to make sure your house is sparkling clean. This is the first impression they will get of your home, so make sure it’s a good one. Be sure to point out any areas of significance where the children are involved: dining room, playroom, bedroom.

The GAL is looking for how the child interacts in three environments: Home, School, and Community. Make sure that between the office visit and the home encounter, the GAL has clear evidence of how the child fits into each of those areas. Do not assume that the GAL notices something; if it’s important, point it out yourself!

Don’t Put the Child in the Middle

The child is not the middleman between you and the GAL. You should definitely let the child know who the GAL is and what their role is. But, don’t put pressure on the child to do things differently than they normally would. Tell the child to be honest and think of the GAL as a friend. Don’t pressure the child to report on conversations between themselves and the GAL. If you need information, talk to the GAL yourself. The more you can make the situation normal and low pressure for the children, the better chance you have that things will go smoothly.

Be Honest

You’re a human being trying to be the best parent that you can. That doesn’t make you perfect. Answer questions from the GAL honestly. If you know you need help discussing some issues, talk to your attorney beforehand. They can help you to better communicate your side of the story.

If you have mental or physical health issues, don’t just tell all the things that are wrong. Discuss with the GAL all the supports and plans you have in place to help your family.

Likewise, if you are having financial difficulties, discuss this with the court and the GAL (your attorney can help). You are responsible for paying the costs of the GAL, so request a payment plan if you need one. You do not look like a responsible parent by being negligent on your GAL bill.

Stay In Touch

After the office and home visits, you might not see very much of the GAL unless you’re in court. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay in touch. Email updates as they occur, and send copies of any relevant documentation to the GAL office. Remember that written communication is always best, and make sure to send a copy of any communications to your attorney.

The GAL does not have to be your enemy. Yes, they will be making recommendations to the court, and yes, those recommendations carry a lot of weight. But, the GAL is one piece of a complex custody puzzle. The best thing you can do in a custody case is to admit you need help. You need to find a good family lawyer who is experienced in dealing with GAL investigations.

If you are in Henry, Clayton, Fayette, or any other metro Atlanta county, Family Matters Law Group invites you to contact us via our convenient online form. We look forward to helping you navigate the GAL waters and your custody case.

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