Their Duty Is to Provide the Best Interest of the Child
Video Transcribed: Your child’s made allegations of abuse or neglect. They’re telling you this horror story, and you really want them to have a chance to tell their story to the judge. Problem is, they’re seven years old and terrified. What can you do? What should you do?
My name is Brian L. Jackson. I am a father’s rights attorney in Tulsa. And I want to talk to you guys about when you should appoint a GAL in a custody case. GAL, just a quick overview of what their role is, is they’re appointed as an officer of the court with the duty to look after the best interests of a minor child or children in family law cases.
They’re not there to necessarily represent the wishes of the child, although they can certainly listen to the wishes of the child and report them. What they’re there for is to make sure the child’s best interests are represented.
Now, if your child makes some kind of disclosure to you that is troubling, that may be a good reason to appoint a GAL, because, among other things, they’ll be empowered by the court to investigate the allegations. They can talk to your child. In fact, they are ordered to talk to your child.
They can talk to third-party witnesses. They can visit her home. They can visit your home and try to ascertain the truth of the matter.
And guardian ad litems come under an exception to the usual rules about hearsay is that provided that appropriate notice is given, a guardian ad litem in Tulsa could be permitted to testify as to what the child told them.
And it may be a way to avoid having to actually have your child testify in court or be interviewed by the judge.
Now, there are specific rules about how that’s done because it has to be brought in under the child hearsay exception, but it can be done. And it is a potential way to avoid a problem with having your child testify.
The other thing with the GAL is even if they’re prohibited from specifically saying what the child told them, they can investigate in other ways and either develop evidence that yeah, that really happened, or no, it probably didn’t happen.
Now, you should understand that appointing a GAL does come with risk because they may come back and report something to the court you don’t like, or that it’s not helpful to your case because they’re not there to be your hired gun. As I said, they’re there to look out for the child’s interests.
But in situations where you have serious allegations, they can be helpful in ascertaining the truth. So GAL may be an appropriate tool in that sort of situation to get at the truth, and certainly motioning the court to appoint a GAL may help with that.