Everyone knows that divorces can get ugly, especially when it comes to matters like child custody. In most cases, a divorcing couple is able to work out a fair agreement for custody on their own, but not always.

When the process of deciding custody becomes contentious, the court might appoint someone as a guardian ad litem (GAL) to help them determine what would be best for the child or children involved. But what is a guardian ad litem and what is their role?

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem is an objective and impartial adult who is court-appointed to represent the interests of any children involved in a custody case. Courts will typically appoint a GAL in cases involving neglect or abuse, but they can also be appointed in contentious divorce cases, with no allegations of abuse. Parents sometimes request that a GAL be appointed to help resolve a custody dispute.

The GAL is appointed to represent the best interests of the child or children. This does not always mean going along with the child’s wishes. It means doing what is best for the child’s safety and long-term well-being.

What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?

The role of a guardian ad litem is similar to that of an investigator. They are an impartial party that must look at the case from every angle and provides recommendations to the court, based on what they find.

Generally, the GAL will talk directly with both parents and the children involved in the case. They might also interview other people in the children’s lives, including teachers, grandparents, doctors, and anyone else with firsthand knowledge of the children’s situation. The GAL will also look over records and paperwork that could be important to the case in determining what type of arrangement will be best for the children.

The guardian ad litem has an important role, but they do not make the final custody decision. That power remains with the judge in the case.

How Can You Protect Your Custody Rights?

If your divorce has gotten contentious and you’re worried that you won’t be able to reach a custody agreement with your spouse, it’s important to discuss your case with a divorce attorney right away. Having experienced legal counsel on your side will help you protect your custody rights, even if a guardian ad litem needs to be appointed.

To learn more about your options in a divorce, give our Birmingham, Alabama law firm a call at (205) 858-9224. Our experienced attorneys focus solely on family law and can guide you through the process so you can resolve your case.