How to use a GAL in Family Law
Advice for Clients on What to Expect if Your Case Includes a Family Law Guardian Ad Litem
As a Florida family lawyer, here are some key pieces of advice I, as a family law attorney AND a family GAL, give to parents considering using a Family Law Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) in their case:
- Understand the Role of a GAL: A GAL is appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of the child or vulnerable individual involved in the case. The GAL’s focus is on the well-being and needs of the child, not on either parent’s desires or preferences.
- Assess the Case’s Complexity: Work with us to evaluate whether their case truly requires a GAL. GALs are often used in complex and contentious cases where there are disputes over custody, visitation, or safety concerns. If the case is relatively straightforward, a GAL might not be necessary. Perhaps a Parenting Coordiantor is a better choice or a Social Investigation or Unification/Reunification Sessions, or many other options.
- Explain the GAL Selection Process: Understand how a GAL is selected. This typically involves the court appointing a qualified individual, often from a list of court-approved GALs, based on the GAL’s expertise and availability. Ask our attorneys, Bonnie or Ken, to explain how this process works.
- Discuss the Costs: Understand that you and or the other parent will be responsible for covering the costs associated with the GAL’s involvement. This can include the GAL’s fees, other evaluations, and or therapeutic interventions.
- Provide Information: Take time to understand the GAL’s investigative process. The GAL will gather information through interviews, observations, and reviewing relevant documents. Cooperating with the GAL’s requests for information is important for a fair assessment and making the child/children available to the GAL is part of this step.
- Encourage Open Communication: Communicate openly and honestly with the GAL. Any attempt to hide information or manipulate the process could negatively impact the case and your credibility.
- Manage Expectations: While the GAL’s recommendations are influential, the court isn’t bound to follow them. The GAL’s input is one factor the court considers when making decisions. Remember, in Brevard County, the bench does tend to depend heavily on the objective third party observations and recommendations of a family GAL.
- Address Concerns Proactively: ITe GAL is an impartial advocate for the child’s best interests, and their goal is to ensure a fair and just resolution. Bring questions, issues, comments to your attorney or to the GAL directly.
- Stay Focused on the Child’s Well-being: The primary focus of the GAL’s involvement is the child’s well-being. Put aside personal conflicts and grievances and concentrate on what’s best for their child even though it may mean putting yourself in the other parent’s shoes or considering carefully what the child needs from you (developmentally, educationally, emotionally, physically) and from the other parent.
- Coordinate with the GAL: Work collaboratively with the GAL. Provide any relevant information, attend scheduled meetings, and engage constructively in the process.
- Legal Counsel Remains Important: While the GAL provides an important perspective, your attorney is crucial in navigating the legal proceedings and advocating for your legal rights. The relationship with your GAL is NOT a fiduciary one – it lacks confidentiality and loyalty, which are valuable aspects of your relationship with your family lawyer.
Our goal is to help you make an informed decision about involving a GAL in your case, while also guiding you through the process and ensuring your rights and interests are protected while looking for the best resolutions on behalf of your children. Call, text, or email the Rhodens for a complimentary phone consultation to discuss your custody, modification, divorce, or other family law matters. 321-549-3162 office call or text or email using the contact form on this site.