A Guardian Ad Litem, commonly referred to as a GAL, provides information and assistance to courts in disputes relating to the care and custody of minor children.  The GAL is an impartial third party who will conduct an investigation to determine what course of action is in the best interest of the children.  A GAL may be appointed in cases when parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, one parent wants to relocate with a child outside of the Commonwealth, or in situations where there is a history, or allegation, of abuse and neglect.  In these and other scenarios, the determination of what is in the best interest of the child is often difficult to determine and depends on many factors.  As such, the Court relies on experienced GAL’s to help.

          A GAL will often speak with the parents, the child, professionals who work with the child, for example day care providers, teachers, or pediatricians, and a couple of personal references.  A GALis not permitted to speak with a child’s therapist because a privilege of confidentiality exists between a minor and his or her 


therapist that a parent cannot  waive.  Further, because the child is a minor,  the child is not legally capable of waiving the privilege.  Often, the GAL will want to see theinteractions the child is not legally capable of waiving the privilege.  Often, the GAL will want to see the interactions between each parent individually with the children and will conduct home visits.  Prior to conducting any interview, a GAL is required to disclose that any information discussed during the interview is not confidential.

          Upon completion of the investigation, the GAL will write a comprehensive report including the facts that were gathered, a detailed summary of each interview, a list of who was interviewed, and if required by the Court, a recommendation for the Court as to how the care and/or custody issues should be resolved.  The report is then filed with the Court, impounded to prevent the public from accessing it, and the judge will consider the GAL’s report and recommendations in making a final judgment on the issue.  Notably, the judge is not bound by the recommendation of the GAL.

          A thoughtful Guardian Ad Litem investigation can help a judge make informed decisions about the care of children in disputed domestic relations cases. Like all domestic relations cases, the skill of the attorney involved is crucial in ensuring that the issues before the court are thoroughly and thoughtfully addressed.  At Bullwinkel & Brooks, Kristin Bullwinkel has demonstrated herself to be a thorough, fair, and reliable GAL.  Her experience exceeds 16 years as a family law attorney and almost as many years as a GAL, wherein she has worked with families of every shape and size.  Kathryn Yates has recently undergone the selection and interview process and was selected to become a GAL.   

          Whether you are in need of a GAL, have questions about the process, would like to know if a GAL may be helpful in your case, or if you have been contacted by a GAL for an interview and would like to know your rights, please call or email us and arrange for a free consultation with one of our domestic relations attorneys.