In the most contested custody cases, the issue of appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is usually a preliminary matter that must be addressed. If your custody case has active abuse or neglect or a party is not represented by counsel, oftentimes the Court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem as a matter of course. When both sides are represented by counsel, whether to appoint a Guardian ad Litem becomes a legal issue – whether you should support or oppose the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem is an important decision to make in your custody case.
Is a Guardian Ad Litem an Attorney?
A Guardian ad Litem in Texas is a mental health professional, not an attorney, appointed by the Court to assist the Court in its investigation into the issues relating to the children. The Guardian ad Litem makes custody recommendations to the Court after interviewing the parents and the children, conducting home visits, reviewing medical and school records and other records provided by the parents, and interviewing collateral witnesses, such as therapists. Unless the parents agree to follow the Guardian ad Litem recommendations, the Court does not have to adopt the GAL’s recommendations. Usually, a custody trial involves disputing or defending the GAL recommendations. Just because there is a GAL recommendation doesn’t mean the Court will follow it.
While the case is pending, the Guardian ad Litem often serves the role of parenting coach and mediator in working through the day-to-day parenting issues that come up during the case. If allowed, the Guardian ad Litem can have a great amount of authority over your parenting issues while your case is pending before the final custody trial. It is important to work closely with your lawyer to determine whether or not the GAL’s involvement is appropriate or if your lawyer needs to step in.
There are other ways to achieve what a Guardian ad Litem offers. The Court can order a Forensic Custody Evaluation by a forensic psychologist. The Court can order psychological testing. The Court can appoint an Attorney ad Litem to represent the children and express their interests. The Court may be able to interview the children in chambers. Our experienced Austin custody lawyers can discuss with you all the options and which approach, if any, is best for your custody case.
How is a Guardian Ad Litem Retained?
A Guardian ad Litem is appointed by a Court order. The Court will order how the GAL’s fees are paid, but they are usually split between the parties. The Guardian ad Litem usually receives an upfront retainer to bill against. Many counties offer Guardian ad Litem services on sliding fee scales.
Contact an Attorney
The experienced Austin divorce and custody lawyers at Lazar Law can help you handle the difficult issues involved with the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem in your divorce or custody case.