What is a guardian ad litem?
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed to assist a domestic or juvenile court in determining what is in a minor child’s best interest.
Who pays for the GAL?
The court order will assign a percentage of the GAL’s fees to each party, allocating them equally or basing them on the parties’ relative incomes. After making an initial deposit, the parties will receive a monthly statement from the GAL’s office.
Is the GAL also my child’s attorney?
The court can appoint a GAL to also act as your child’s attorney, but the court appoints a GAL to represent the child’s best interest. The GAL must consider the child’s wishes, but the GAL’s role is to represent the child’s best interest. If the GAL identifies a conflict between the child’s wishes and the child’s best interest, then the GAL will notify the court, where further orders may be made.
What are the GAL’s responsibilities?
The Supreme Court of Ohio outlines the GAL’s responsibilities, but a court’s local rule may also address specific criteria. A GAL must:
- Represent the best interest of the child;
- Maintain independence, objectivity and fairness;
- Act with respect and courtesy to the parties;
- Appear and participate in all hearings and at “in camera” interviews between the judge or magistrate and the child;
- Ask the court, in writing, to resolve conflicts by entering appropriate orders;
- Request psychological, mental health or substance abuse assessments regarding the parties;
- Avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest that may arise from any relationship or activity;
- Make reasonable efforts to learn about the facts of the case by:
- observing the child with each parent, foster parent, guardian or physical custodian and conducting at least one interview with the child where none of these individuals are present;
- visiting the child’s residence in accordance with any court-established standards;
- ascertaining the child’s wishes;
- interviewing the parties, foster parents and other individuals who may have relevant knowledge of the case;
- reviewing pleadings and other relevant court documents;
- reviewing criminal, civil, educational and administrative records pertaining to the child and, if appropriate, to the child’s family or other parties;
- interviewing school personnel, medical and mental health providers, child protective services workers and relevant court personnel, and obtaining copies of relevant records;
- recommending that the court order psychological evaluations, substance abuse assessments or other evaluations or tests that would be helpful to the court;
- Provide the court with a written report of the activities listed above.