A GAL Is a Person Appointed by the Court to Protect the Best Interests of a Child Pursuant
Video Transcribed: My name is Brian L. Jackson. I’m an Oklahoma dad’s lawyer with Dads.Law, where fathers are not disposable. And I’m here today, I want to talk to you guys about some additional information about GALs, that you’d probably be interested to know.
Let’s start with what is the GAL? That’s a Guardian ad Litem. It’s a fancy Latin term for it’s an attorney who’s appointed to act in support of the best interests of minor children. Or in some cases they’re also appointed in adult protective cases or adult guardianship, but that’s a separate matter.
And being on the scope of what we’re going to talk about today. Guardian ad Litems are not preferenced attorneys, per se. In other words, their job is not necessarily to argue for what the child wants. Their job is to do what’s in that child’s best interest.
And sometimes that means doing things the child may not like. One interesting thing to be aware of is Guardian ad Litems making recommendations as to custodial arrangements.
There’s the legal authority that, and some counties will crack down on this pretty hard, where recommendations from GALs as to what the court should do are not welcome and not wanted.
Now, what you typically see in those situations though, is the Guardian ad Litem will report their findings to the court in their report, which is part of their job, is that they will investigate, gather information, form opinions and file a report.
A lot of what you’ll see though is you’ll see Guardian ad Litems where they’ll say, well, I can’t make a formal recommendation, but this, this, this, and this are an issue about this parent that very strongly suggests to the court, Hey, they’re not a good placement.
One thing I see sometimes with Guardian ad Litems too is that they will start to steer the case in a particular direction using motions or other preliminary steps to try to steer the court in a particular direction. Like if they believe that reconciliation therapy is necessary, they might start following a motion to get a therapist appointed to address that issue, for example.
So there are ways they can still kind of guide the court in a certain direction if they think that’s what the child needs. One thing to know is that the Guardian ad Litem is not, and they shouldn’t be, they are not there to advocate for one parent or the other. They’re not per se an ally.
They could become helpful if you have a GAL that’s made favorable findings, has a favorable opinion, but they’re not there to advocate on your behalf as a father, nor are they there to advocate on mom’s behalf as a mother.
They’re there to advocate on the children’s behalf. And sometimes what’s best for the children is what neither parent likes. That can happen. You can get a recommendation neither parent’s happy with. So that is a reality with GALs.
So don’t assume that they are there to be your advocate. They’re not. Also, another thing that’s important to understand, although I’m generally speaking of the opinion that you want to try and be honest with the GAL.
I would say that should be tempered by if it’s anything sensitive, understand it’s not privileged if you tell the GAL. So if you are really concerned about it, talk to your lawyer first, get their opinion as to what you should share, or how you should share it, or if you should share it before you say anything to the GAL.
You tell them it’s on the record. So and what I mean by that is anything, obviously anything that could potentially incriminate you, you want to be very, very careful about, but also if like, even if it’s just something very deeply private, maybe it’s not incriminating.
Maybe it’s not even necessarily damaging to you as a litigated and a custody visitation matter, but it might be something deeply private. Well, understand if you tell the GAL it’s on the record, it’s just as good as if you told the judge.
So be aware of that. And if it’s something deeply personal, it’s at least worth talking to your lawyer about what the potential impact is if you do say it versus you don’t say it. If you don’t divulge certain information, then what effect might that have.
If I divulge that, what effect might that have, and what are the net consequences and benefits of each before you open your mouth. And that’s just because, as I said, it’s on the record. It’s not private. And if you have questions about any of these guys, I would encourage you to go to Dads.Law where fathers are not disposable, and we’d be happy to help you out.