By: Lynn Fox
Lynn Fox is a Discovery Specialist Attorney at WhitbeckBennett. She enjoys helping clients with their family law matters, focusing on discovery in particular. Lynn is particularly passionate about her work as a certified guardian ad litem, advocating on behalf of children in custody as well as abuse and neglect cases. To learn more about Lynn Fox , click here.
The Importance of Cooperation with the Guardian ad Litem
What is a guardian ad litem (GAL) in a family law case?
In Virginia, a guardian ad litem or “GAL” is an attorney that holds a special certification to act as an advocate for a client in a case. Guardian ad litem means “guardian for the suit.” There are GALs appointed for children, and there are GALs appointed for incapacitated persons. A judge appoints a GAL to assist the court in making decisions in a particular case.
Unlike other lawyers representing clients, a GAL is charged with advocating for the best interests of a client, rather than necessarily fighting for what the client wants. Sometimes those interests are different. For example, a child may want to live with an abusive parent, but the GAL representing the child must protect the child from harm and may recommend to the court that the child only see the parent in supervised settings.
Why is it important to cooperate with the GAL?
Among other responsibilities, the guardian ad litem in a custody/visitation or divorce case is required to conduct an independent investigation of the facts and to make recommendations to the court based on her findings. The GAL presents these findings and recommendations to the judge in a report. As a certified GAL who has served in numerous cases over the years, I assure you that judges put a great deal of trust in the GAL and usually follow the recommendations of the GAL.
Since judges give the GAL report so much weight, it is very important that parents cooperate with the GAL. This means completing all questionnaires and background check forms, actively participating in any interviews and home visits, and presenting your case in the best light possible to the guardian ad litem.
At WhitbeckBennett, we have experienced attorneys that have served as GALs as well as attorneys who are knowledgeable with preparing their clients to put their best foot forward when working with the GAL.
We know what the GAL is looking for when making all-important custody recommendations and how to appropriately present that information. Further, many cases are settled based on the GAL’s recommendation. It’s often too late to win your case, if that the GAL has already finished her investigation and made her recommendation favoring the other party. If you need help with your case, particularly with a GAL, please give us a call to set up a consultation.