The court system can be as equally daunting as it is confusing, especially when minor children are involved. Although some may be familiar with the term “Guardian ad Litem” in some way or another, for many the concept of a Child Representative and an Attorney for the Child are foreign. So, what is the difference?
Guardian ad Litem
A Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) is a court-appointed attorney tasked with representing the best interests of a minor child or children in court proceedings. The Court can appoint a GAL in a divorce, parentage, adoption, or guardianship matter. The GAL is often referred to as the “eyes and ears of the court.” They are required to complete an investigation and report back to the Court – such investigation includes interviewing the parents, interviewing the child(ren), and observing each parent with the child(ren), among other things. The GAL's primary objective is to determine what is in the best interests of the minor child(ren). A GAL can be cross-examined by either party about their report, and they are also able to file pleadings, issue discovery, and request relief on behalf of the child(ren).
Attorney for the Child
An Attorney for the Child is pretty distinct from a GAL in that they are not required to meet with or interview the parents, they are not required to present a report to the Court, and they can neither be called as a witness nor cross-examined by either party. An Attorney for the Child simply exists to advocate for the child's interests, just as an attorney for an adult would. Like an attorney, they are bound by attorney/client confidentiality; like a GAL, they can file pleadings, issue discovery, and request relief on behalf of the child.
A Child Representative (“Child Rep.”) is a cross between a GAL and an Attorney for the Child, and they are generally appointed in heavily contested matters. Like an Attorney for the Child, a Child Rep. is not required to submit a report to the Court and they cannot be called as a witness or cross-examined by the parties. Like a GAL, a Child Rep. is a court-appointed attorney who is required to complete an investigation. However, a Child Rep. does not submit a report to the Court like a GAL. Instead, they submit their recommendations in a pre-trial memorandum.
Get Help Today
Wading through the waters of the court system can be scary and, at times, seemingly insurmountable. However, the experienced team at CTM Legal Group is here to help you, step-by-step. Our office can help you navigate even the most challenging aspects of your family law case. Contact CTM Legal Group today!