Both Parties Have Their Pros and Cons
Video Transcribed: Let’s talk about appointing the public defender’s office versus getting a GAL, what are the pros and cons of each? My name is Brian L. Jackson, I am a men’s attorney in Tulsa with Dads.Law. And I want to talk to you guys today about having the PD’s office appointed on behalf of your kids versus a guardian ad litem. And what are the advantages of each?
Now, I’ll start by saying typically the PD’s office is not appointed except in cases where there’s some kind of an allegation of abuse or neglect, or exposure to domestic violence. In those situations, the court can and will appoint a public defender on behalf of your children.
Now, there are some advantages to that. It does bring an independent voice to the table on behalf of your children. And it does mean that there is kind of a neutral party who at least in theory would lookout for the best interest of your children. And the PD’s office, by the way, doesn’t cost you anything, which is also a nice plus.
Now, there are disadvantages to the PD’s office. The key disadvantage is we are talking about attorneys who are way overworked. They’re very busy. They have heavy caseloads. They’re typically underappreciated and not treated very well as a general rule as attorneys go.
So because of this, their time to dedicate to each individual case is going to be more limited. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say, they don’t do the best job they can, but it’s going to be relative to the resources that they have available to them, which includes time, there are only so many hours in the day, only so many days in the week, only so many weeks in the month, you get the idea, and they’re extremely busy so they may not have the same time to dedicate to your case as a private GAL would, which I’m going to talk about in a second.
Another thing to understand about the PD’s office is they are not a guardian ad litem. They are what’s called a preference attorney. What they’re there to do mainly is to advocate whatever your child says that they want. And sometimes children don’t know what’s in their own best interests.
And sometimes children are influenced by one parent or the other, so that can produce some interesting outcomes. Now, it’s been my experience that the PD’s office attorneys will to some degree also try to advocate for the best interest of the child. They do their best, but what they’re not doing, because they’re not there to do this, is a full GAL investigation report. So it’s not exactly the same outcome as what you get from a GAL.
What is a GAL? A GAL is a guardian ad litem. They act as an arm of the court, and they’re there specifically to advocate for the best interest of your child. Now, a GAL will, if they’re doing their job correctly, fully investigate everyone, they’re going to talk to you, they’re going to talk to your ex, they’re going to talk to your kids.
They’re going to talk to any other persons who have contact with your kids that they feel might have relevant information. And they’re going to prepare a full report off of that. In most cases, they’re going to get a complete picture of what’s going on so that they can issue factual findings to the court.
Now, what the GAL tells the court is not binding upon the court and neither, by the way, is whatever the argument that the PD’s office makes, it’s not binding on the court.
At the end of the day, the court gets to decide what’s best for your kids, but GALs and PDs to a lesser extent are generally speaking … They have a lot of persuasive power when in court because the court looks at it as they don’t have a dog this fight. In other words, they’re not there to care which parent gets the kids.
They’re there to look out for what’s, in the case of GAL look out for what’s best for the kids. In the case of the PD, advocate the child’s position. And to some degree, they will try to look out for the best interest of their own client.
So they’re generally considered persuasive because of that because they’re not trying to fight well, this parent should have this many days and the other parents should have to pay them money, child support kind of positions. So they tend to have a lot of persuasive power with the courts.
The downside to a GAL is that persuasive power can become a problem if they issue an unfavorable report if they make unfavorable findings. Also, GALs are private attorneys, so as I’m sure you’ve guessed, they cost money. And they’re typically going to bill by the hour at a rate similar to what you’re paying your own attorney.
So it can get quite expensive. And depending on how the court chooses to allocate that cost, it could make your case more expensive. However, if you are dealing with a situation where there are serious allegations, for example, if there are allegations of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, substance abuse, things like that, it’s a good idea to have a GAL in the picture to get to the bottom of what’s going on. one place you can find an Oklahoma father’s lawyer is at dads.law, where fathers are not disposable.