What is a Guardian Ad Litem and Do I Need One?

A guardian ad litem (GAL) or court-appointed special advocate (CASA) is an individual whom the court appoints in a family law matter in order to represent a child’s best interests. In most situations, the case involves a child custody or visitation dispute.

The “best interests of a child” is a legal standard that applies in all California family law cases involving children and in similar cases in many other states. Every situation is different, but as a general rule, the best interests of a child involve the following factors:

  • The child’s age and health
  • The child’s relationship with each parent, other relatives and his or her community
  • The parents’ ability to work with each other in order to co-parent their child
  • The child’s preference, if he or she is of an age sufficient to express a reasonable preference
  • Any other factors that affect a child’s health and wellbeing

A GAL is specially trained to investigate, assess the situation, and make a recommendation for the court to consider that is in the child’s best interests. In conducting his or her investigation, a GAL will interview both parents and the child, as well as any other individuals who have a significant presence in the child’s life, such as a teacher, doctor, or therapist. The GAL also will look at a variety of different records related to the child, including school records, medical records, therapist records, and the legal documents in the parents’ court case. Depending on the circumstances, the GAL may wish to observe the child interacting with his or her siblings and/or parent(s), attending classes at school, or simply in the course of his or her typical daily life. Once the GAL has completed his or her investigation, the GAL will issue a written report that is filed with the court.

When you are facing an emotionally traumatic and stressful life event like a child custody dispute, it is essential that you have experienced legal counsel on your side to represent your interests. No matter what issues arise in your child custody proceedings, we can help. The Law Offices of Vincent W. Davis & Associates have handled countless divorce and family law cases throughout the years. Do not hesitate to contact an experienced California child custody attorney at our office if you have any questions about child custody disputes or any other family law-related matters in the state of California.