May 20, 2022
If you and your children’s other parent are each fighting to get or maintain control over your kids, then an ugly custody battle or other legal proceeding might be on the horizon. It is normal for disputes over custody to take center stage in a divorce. You and the other parent might both claim to know what is best for your kids, but this often leads to disagreements that take the court system to resolve. One of the attorneys that the court turns to in resolving disputes about children is a guardian ad litem, or GAL. They help the court determine what is in the best interests of your children. Here’s more about what a guardian ad litem does, and how you can ensure that your child’s best interests are protected.
GAL stands for “Guardian Ad Litem.” Under Oklahoma law, a guardian ad litem is an attorney who may be appointed by the judge in any proceeding in which there is a dispute about custody or visitation of a child or children. The GAL’s role is to advocate on behalf of the child and investigate all matters concerning the child’s best interests.
The duties of the GAL may include:
The GAL participates in the case, attending all hearings and proceedings, and advocates for appropriate services for the child when necessary. Prior to trial, or at any time specified by the judge, the GAL presents written factual reports on the best interests of the child to the parents and the judge.
Keep in mind that a guardian ad litem does not represent either you or your spouse. Rather, they advocate for your children. Because of this, you should not expect a guardian ad litem to give you legal advice like your own lawyer could. If you hire a lawyer solely to represent you, then they should act in your best interests. You can expect your lawyer to aim to get you the child custody arrangement that you believe to be in your children’s best interest.
A parenting coordinator, just like a guardian ad litem, is an impartial third party appointed by the court to help you and other parties resolve disputes concerning children. But unlike a guardian ad litem, a parenting coordinator can actually put resolutions in place. A guardian ad litem recommends a resolution to the court, but it is up to the court to approve or deny the recommendations. Parenting coordinators can help with resolving misunderstandings and can help you be compliant with court orders relating to custody and parenting time. This could entail helping you compromise with the other parent concerning your minor children’s best interest. Parenting coordinators don’t just deal with divorces. They get involved with paternity suits and guardianships too.
A Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed in a legal case for a person who is not able to represent themselves because they are a minor child, mentally incapacitated, or aged. Most divorcing spouses are capable of representing themselves with the help of their attorneys, or without an attorney (pro se), and do not need a GAL for themselves. However, in Oklahoma divorce proceedings in which custody or visitation of a minor child is at issue, the judge may appoint a GAL to advocate on behalf of the child and to investigate all matters concerning the best interests of the child. If you are getting divorced and have children, you may request a GAL to advocate on their behalf, but ultimately the judge will decide whether a GAL is necessary or appropriate given the circumstances of your case.
A guardian ad litem plays an important role in the court evaluating the best interests of your children. Their opinion of you matters a lot, so you don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. For this reason, you should speak with a skilled family law attorney to determine the best way to proceed. There are few decisions which are as important as those relating to the care of your children which is why having a professional in your corner makes sense. Inner Vision Legal is a highly-regarded family law firm who has helped many people manage divorce, child custody, child support and other family law issues. Backed by more than four decades of experience, Inner Vision Legal has been recognized as one of the best divorce law firms in Oklahoma. Reach out to us by contacting us online.