When you are part of a disputed case involving child custody in Albuquerque or elsewhere in New Mexico, you will interact with many people during your case. While you may understand the role the attorneys involved will play, you may not be familiar with the guardian ad litem (GAL) appointed by the court for your child or understand why one needs to be involved.
The court’s job is to look out for the best interests of your child in a custody case. When they feel as if they may need some additional help in this area or that your child’s safety could be jeopardy, the court will appoint a GAL.
It’s important to learn as much as you can about the GAL in your case so you know what is going on and feel more at ease interacting with that person. Since their role in your case is very important, you will want to be as confident as possible when dealing with your GAL.
What is a GAL?
The guardian ad litem is an advocate appointed by the court whose role is to figure out and advocate for the best interests of your child. A GAL is often an attorney with special training in the family law process. They are not to take “sides” in your custody case; they are there to be impartial and conduct an independent investigation. Once that investigation is finished, they give a full report of their findings to the court. In that sense, a GAL is often seen as the “eyes and ears” of the court.
What Does the GAL’s Investigation Entail?
During the investigation, the GAL will have a vast authority scope. A full investigation may include interviews with any person who has information about or is involved with your child, such as you and your family, your ex-partner or spouse and their family, your child, and your child’s coaches or teachers. The GAL also can speak with and request information from any medical or mental health professionals or other people providing services to you, your child or your ex.
Keep in mind that even if the idea makes you uncomfortable, the GAL has the right to talk to your child without you being present. They may also want to observe the child in different environments, such as in your home and in the home of your ex.
A GAL can also search for and receive copies of anything that could impact the safety of your child in either home. These reports can include findings from child protective services, police reports and drug treatment records. Since the GAL has court authority, you cannot limit their access to any relevant information.
What will the GAL Report to the Court?
The sole focus of the GAL is the child’s best interests, so any relevant information they uncover during the investigation will be part of their court report. This report often contains an overview of everything they have learned and observed, and it will also include the GAL’s recommendations for visitation and custody. A GAL can also cross-examine any witness put up by your or your ex, call a witness, or request an emergency hearing if they feel your child is not safe.
Needless to say, it is vital you cooperate with the GAL in your case and always treat them politely and with respect. If you have any concerns about your GAL or their behavior, you should speak to your attorney immediately and allow them to handle it. Getting into arguments with your GAL could hurt your custody case.