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Guardian Ad Litem: Burning Questions About This Type Of Family Lawyer And The Answers You Seek Before You Head To Court

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When people say, "family lawyer," it could refer to one of three types of legal counsel. One type of legal counsel this phrase can refer to is a guardian ad litem, or children's lawyer, who is commonly appointed to represent minor children since children are not allowed in court. You may be assigned a guardian ad litem (GAL) in court if you are about to divorce and have minor children whom you share with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Before you head into court, you may have some burning questions about this type of family lawyer. Here are some common questions and their answers about GALs with which to familiarize yourself before you head into court.

Why Do You Have to Have a GAL?

Most people do not like the idea of an extra lawyer (or other professional) being assigned to their families. If anything, you may feel indignant about the fact that you are not allowed to select your own GAL to represent your children. It is very rare (and often much more costly) to select a GAL for your children, since the courts often want a completely unbiased and objective person in this position, and someone selected solely by you or solely by your ex-spouse represents a possible bias.

Ergo, most courts appoint a GAL for your minor children because your children are not old enough to select their own lawyer or appear in court for themselves. Most counties, cities and states do not allow minors in the courtroom, both because of the children's ages and because there is a greater possibility for emotional or psychological harm if the parents have a volatile marriage and divorce. In most cases, the GAL is almost always a lawyer, but it may be another trusted professional who works with children.

Who Pays for the GAL and Why?

In most cases, the legal fees charged by the GAL are split between the divorcing parents because both parents are responsible for costs concerning the children. Even if you adamantly reject the court's offer of a GAL and the services provided by a GAL, you will still have to pay the GAL's fees. If you cannot afford the fees, you may still be charged at a reduced rate for the GAL's involvement with your family's child custody case(s).

You Do Not Like the GAL--Can You Get a Different One?

There is almost always one parent who may not like the GAL assigned to them. There has to be a lot more going on than not liking a person or not liking his or her recommendations for placement of your children. If you find that (once assigned) your GAL is ineffectual, does not represent your children's best interests adequately, ignores documentation of abuse, or behaves unethically or unprofessionally, then you may request a new GAL. You will have to prove your statements against the GAL, however; the court will not take what you say at face value. Ergo, your own family lawyer that represents your interests in court may be able to help you document any issues you encounter, should there be any.

For more information, contact Watson Law Firm or a similar organization.