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Understanding the Role of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in Contentious Child Custody Cases


By the time you are researching the role of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL), you are probably in the middle of a contentious child custody fight. GALs are not appointed in all child custody cases; rather, having a GAL appointed is quite uncommon. The GAL is appointed by the court to conduct an investigation and make recommendations to the judge regarding the custody and parenting arrangements that would be in the child’s best interests. A Michigan judge usually appoints a GAL when the case is very contentious, when there is a concern that the children may be harmed by one or both parents and when parents have a drastically different perspectives of the facts and what’s best for their children.

The GAL’s role is to investigate each parent’s allegations and concerns and to provide the court with an unbiased, objective assessment of the child’s needs and the abilities of each parent to meet those needs. This may involve interviews with the child, the parents, and other relevant parties, such as teachers, doctors, or social workers. Sometimes, the GAL may also observe the child interacting with each parent and may review relevant documents, such as medical records or school reports.

The Investigation and Assessment Process: How a GAL Evaluates Parental Allegations and Child’s Best Interests

The GAL will also investigate the living conditions of each parent and evaluate whether they can provide a safe and stable environment for the child. In most cases, the GAL spends significant time reviewing records, such as police reports, counseling records, school records, child protective reports, and eventually, the GAL will prepare findings in an extensive report. The GAL’s report will include recommendations regarding custody and parenting arrangements, such as sole physical custody, joint physical custody, or a shared parenting plan. The GAL may also recommend specific parenting time schedules, such as alternating weeks or specific days of the week or even a period of supervised parenting time.

Navigating the Influence of the GAL’s Recommendations: Importance and Strategies for Presenting Strong Arguments

It is important to be guided by an expert child custody attorney throughout your interactions with the GAL. When a GAL is appointed, a parent has been involved in contentious litigation for quite a while. Parents are at risk of allowing their frustrations with the legal system to overshadow their relationship with the GAL. On the other hand, parents may relax now that the GAL has been appointed and provide the GAL with insufficient and the best information possible to have their situation investigated. Additionally, the GAL’s findings carry a lot of weight, and you should have an attorney guide you to provide the best arguments and evidence to the GAL. The GAL’s recommendations are not binding on the court, but the recommendation is still very important. The judge will thoroughly listen to the GAL’s expert testimony, and it will require a lot of investigation, preparation, and expert skill to offset a bad opinion and recommendation from the GAL.

In conclusion, by the time the court appoints a Guardian ad Litem, you need an attorney. Not only do you need an attorney, but you will also need an experienced child custody attorney. Your attorney needs to be comfortable litigating cases. Some attorneys are excellent at settling cases; their focus is on cooperation and helping you through the process as painlessly and quickly as possible. At Kraayeveld Law, we are tenacious litigators. We are bold and fearless. We know how to fight.  Call us at 616-285-0808 if you need help in your custody fight.