In a contested custody matter, the court may appoint a Guardian ad litem (GAL) for a child or children. If the court or your attorney recommends appointment of a GAL, it is important to understand his or her role and how he or she can influence your case.
Many people equate the appointment of a GAL with family law cases involving the neglect, abuse or abandonment of children. In Connecticut, and throughout the United States, however, the use of a GAL can also be helpful during high-conflict custody matters.
In Connecticut, two types of advocates may assist children during a custody dispute:
- Guardian ad litem (GAL) – A GAL is an individual appointed by the court to determine and represent the best interests of a child or children. After conducting an investigation, the GAL makes a custodial recommendation.
- Attorney for minor child (AMC) – As the attorney for a minor child, legal counsel provides representation and services that reflect the stated wishes of a child or children.
There is a critical difference between the function of a GAL and an AMC. The recommendation of a GAL may run counter to the stated wishes of the child. As paid legal counsel, the AMC represents a child with the same confidentiality and purpose as he or she would for an adult client. In divorce matters, parents usually split the cost of legal advocates for their children.
Proper selection and appointment of legal advocates for your children is critical. No legal system is perfect, and a GAL who improperly aligns with one party or the other can have an enormous say in your children’s future and the amount of time you get to spend with your kids.
When possible, agreements made between parents outside of court are usually more suitable, and are more conducive to healthy relationships among all family members involved in the divorce. When a GALor other advocate becomes necessary, consult a family law attorney in Connecticut who can explain your rights and address your concerns.