How A Guardian Ad Litem Can Help In A Family Law Case

Published 05/27/16 by Admin

If you find yourself at this blog, you are most likely familiar with what a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is and what functions they can serve in a case. However, if you are not familiar, a Guardian Ad Litem is a court-appointed specialist who is responsible for maintaining a child’s best interests throughout the process of a case involving that child. Ad Litem is Latin, meaning “for the case”. A GAL differs from a legal guardian in the sense that they are not responsible for the child’s day-to-day affairs or their property after the conclusion of the relevant litigation that the child is involved in.

A Guardian Ad Litem is appointed by the court and can either be an attorney (Note: An attorney who is presenting evidence related to child abuse or neglect in a case is not allowed to serve as that child’s Guardian Ad Litem), or it can be a court-appointed special advocate (CASA). A GAL can either be appointed by the court where it sees fit, or appointed by the court if the attorney representing the child requests one be appointed. In either circumstance, a Guardian Ad Litem can be a great asset to a child in the result of a family law case.

There are 2 primary ways in which a Guardian Ad Litem can help in a family law case:

  • A Guardian Ad Litem’s primary function is to protect the best interest of the child.
    As the title suggests, while there are many responsibilities that a GAL must maintain, all of those responsibilities revolve around one primary function: to protect the best interests of the child, no matter what. An attorney who is representing a child in a case, whether it be delinquency issues, adjudication, neglect, abuse or a crime, wants to ensure the best possible outcome for the child they are representing. By requesting the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem, an attorney is ensuring that the child is properly cared for and represented both inside the courtroom and outside. A GAL can ensure that a child does not get into any more trouble that could alter or jeopardize a case where a child is being tried, or they can ensure that the child is not being mistreated by a parent, guardian, or legal custodian.
  • A Guardian Ad Litem’s training allows them to better communicate with the child and gain information that can be useful to the case.
    To become a GAL, an individual must have gone through the necessary and relevant education and training required by the Ohio Supreme Court as well as continued education and training as required. Among this training, a Guardian Ad Litem is taught the appropriate techniques to interview a child and to identify potential signs of neglect or child abuse inflicted by the child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian. With the help of this training, a child may feel more comfortable around a GAL than they would being around an attorney or someone the child may find to be intimidating. With this level of intimacy and personability towards a child, a Guardian Ad Litem may be able to gain information from the child related to the case or get the child to open about if they are being abused or neglected.

Above are just two of many possible ways in which a Guardian Ad Litem can serve a positive and helpful role in a family law case or any case that involves a child. Attorneys can find their hands full when juggling the many responsibilities and tasks related to representing a child in court. With the assistance of a Guardian Ad Litem, that individual can help to remove some of those responsibilities, allowing the attorney to dedicate their full attention to handling the child’s case, as well as ensuring that the child is appropriately looked after and managed throughout the duration of the case.

A Guardian Ad Litem is a necessary and important function within the legal system and it is with their help that a child receives the appropriate attention, care, representation, and help.