Guardian ad Litem in New Jersey

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person appointed by the court to serve as an advocate for another party who cannot legally advocate for themselves. For instance, a GAL typically represents the interests of minor children or incapacitated adults in a court proceeding. 

A guardian ad litem can play a large role in high conflict divorces and could represent the interests of a minor child during custody disputes. Unlike the attorneys representing each side, the GAL is focused entirely on the child’s best interests. A skilled child custody attorney can explain the role of a guardian ad litem in New Jersey and prepare you for what to expect from the involvement of a GAL in a pending custody case.

Duties of a GAL

During the course of a divorce case, the GAL does not take guardianship of the minor child or serve as a de facto parent. Instead, it is their role to investigate the circumstances of the divorce or custody dispute and the child’s living situation to determine what custody outcome would be in the child’s best interest. 

The recommendations of a GAL cannot be based on their opinion alone. The court-appointed individual must perform a thorough investigation and report their findings to the court. This investigation typically begins with an interview of the child. The interviews will then continue with other members of the household, including parents, siblings, and other individuals with relevant information. A knowledgeable custody attorney can help a parent prepare for an interview with the GAL.

When necessary, the GAL can also seek guidance from independent experts to form their opinion. Once the investigation is complete, the GAL will make their findings known to the court. The judge will have the final say on all matters related to child custody; but they typically rely heavily on the investigation of the GAL when making a determination. 

Matters a Guardian ad Litem Could Advise On

A GAL can offer an opinion on many aspects of a potential custody arrangement, including the parents’ ability and willingness to accept responsibility for the child. A GAL can also offer useful insight into the relationship between the parents.

Often, a GAL will be involved in cases where one parent refuses to comply with the terms of the custody agreement. If a parent interferes with another parent’s time with the child without any evidence of abuse or neglect, the GAL could report this behavior back to the court. 

A GAL may also carefully investigate the nature of a child’s home life. This includes not only their relationship with their parents, but also with siblings and other family members as well. This investigation is designed to identify signs of domestic abuse or neglect. 

At the end of their investigation, a GAL will advise the court on the stability of the home environment, including whether a child has enough to eat, is taken to school, and has adequate hygiene. If the child is old enough and has the capacity to form an intelligent opinion on custody, a GAL will also work to determine their preference for custody.

Talk to a New Jersey Attorney about the Role of a Guardian ad Litem

If you are going through a divorce, the court may appoint a GAL to evaluate your family’s home and serve as your child’s advocate. This is a normal procedure and does not necessarily mean the court thinks you are an unfit parent. 

Understanding the role of a guardian ad litem in New Jersey is helpful, as they can play an important role in your divorce case. Let a seasoned attorney answer any questions you might have about the GAL appointed in your divorce case. Call today.

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