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Alabama family law: What is a GAL?

In Alabama child custody disputes, parents might hear the acronym “GAL” and wonder not only what it means, but how it will impact their custody arrangement. “GAL” refers to Guardians ad Litem, representatives assigned to children in contested custody disputes to ensure their best interests are protected.

“Guardian ad litem” is a Latin term meaning someone acts as a guardian “for the case” or “for the proceeding.” Courts appoint guardians ad litem in divorce cases where parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement. They speak on behalf of the child or children during custody proceedings.

What does a guardian ad litem do?

The guardian ad litem conducts an independent inquiry into the family’s situation. They often interview the child, their parents, their teachers, and other prominent figures in the child’s life. Based on their observations, they make recommendations to the court for what type of child custody or visitation arrangement is best for the child.

Is the guardian ad litem’s recommendation binding?

No. The guardian ad litem’s report is purely for informational purposes, aimed at helping the court understand the child’s best interests. However, their recommendation carries a lot of weight – it is essential to cooperate with them.

How can I prepare for an interview with the guardian ad litem?

Expect to answer questions about your parenting style, why there is a dispute over custody, and essential aspects of the child’s life. It also helps to gather documents that might help the guardian ad litem understand your child’s lifestyle, such as school records, income information, and counseling records.

There are professionals who can support parents

It is normal to be nervous about working with a guardian ad litem. They perform a very important service that could impact the time you get to spend with your child. However, parents are not alone in this process. An attorney experienced in Alabama family law can help in preparing for interviews with the GAL and keep your child’s bests interests at the forefront. 

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