What is the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in a Divorce case?
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a latin term meaning “Guardian for the lawsuit.” A GAL is a person, a social worker or an attorney, who is appointed by the court in a divorce or child custody case in order to investigate and gather evidence for the judge. Judges here in Massachusetts, presiding over a divorce case, cannot leave the courtroom and go into the parent’s house, look around and talk to different people, before making a decision in the case. Instead, a GAL is assigned the task.
The GAL will work the both parties’ divorce or child custody lawyer to get a list of witnesses to talk to. In a child custody case, they will typically want to talk to the parties and see the child interact with the parents in the home. They will want to speak to the child’s teachers, babysitters, family members, doctors, etc. Anyone that the GAL feels will have an opinion as to how the child is raised and the interaction between the child and the parents.
After the investigation and speaking with all the witnesses, the GAL will typically write a report to the judge detailing his investigation and lastly, make a recommendation on how custody should be ordered.
A GAL is very useful in that they will do a more extensive investigation and will be able to bring in more testimony and witnesses than if the divorce or child custody attorneys can parade in during trial. You probably don’t want the entire family, friends, neighbors, teachers and doctors to be testifying at trial during your divorce or child custody battle.
If you’re in the Boston area and you feel you might benefit from using a GAL in your case, you should speak with your attorney. Using a GAL can be a useful litigation strategy.