A guardian ad litem (GAL) is a lawyer chosen by a court in a paternity, divorce, custody modification, or child protective case. Missouri requires GALs to be appointed in cases where abuse or neglect is being alleged, but can appoint GAL in any custody case where they believe the GAL would be beneficial. The GAL is licensed by the Supreme Court and has completed the necessary training to maintain the standards required by the court system. So what is the role of a GAL?
Here are three main functions of a GAL in a family law matter:
- Represent the child’s best interests. The GAL is responsible for representing the child’s best interests in a family law case. According to Missouri law, a child’s best interests include both physical health and safety as well as emotional wellbeing, and the GAL is responsible for making sure those interests are upheld throughout the proceedings and in the final decision.
- Conduct an investigation. The GAL will interview both parents, contact others involved with the child, such as family members and friends, and also request other documentation to determine the best interests of the child. Such documents include school records, counseling reports, and medical history reports. The GAL will then use this information to determine what situation will uphold the child’s best interests.
- Make a custody recommendation. After analyzing all pieces of evidence related to the family situation, the GAL will recommend a custody arrangement that will best suit the needs of the child. If parents and GAL are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, they can go to trial and seek to persuade a judge to follow their proposed custody arrangments; Although not required to do so, courts often follow the GAL’s recommendation.
The guardian ad litem plays an essential role in determining the outcome of a custody case. It is important for parents to cooperate with the GAL and seek a beneficial solution, and our St. Louis County family law attorneys at Coulter Lambson can work with you and advocate your positions to the GAL assigned to the case. We can help seek an outcome that upholds your child’s best interests and we can represent you throughout the case. Whether you are dealing with a complicated divorce, child support, domestic violence case, or other family law matter, our lawyers can help.
Call Coulter Lambson today at (314) 309-2377 for a free consultation for a family law case.