There are some family court cases in which it is necessary to appoint what is known as a Guardian ad Litem or GAL. In Missouri, courts award child custody based on what they believe is in the child’s best interest. But, sometimes it is hard for the Court to determine what is in the child’s best interest because the parents can’t agree and there are allegations of abuse or neglect of the child by either one or both parents. In those situations, this is when the Court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem or GAL. Often, a GAL is an attorney. The GAL represents the best interests of the child or children involved to determine what custody and visitation provisions are in the best interests of the child or children.
Who is chosen to be the GAL?
In order to be appointed as a Guardian ad Litem, the person must be a licensed attorney in Missouri. In addition, they must have completed Missouri’s required GAL training. That training consists of 8 hours the initial year of training and three hours of continuing education each year after that. Both Mayra and Erika are certified to and do act as GALs in family cases where they are not already representing one of the parents. The specific GAL for your case may be agreed upon by the attorneys or appointed by the Judge. At Flesner Wentzel, we know that the selection of a Guardian ad Litem is very important. We know that it can determine the outcome of your case. Each GAL has issues that they are particularly concerned with and different levels of involvement and investigation of the facts. Our attorneys will discuss possible Guardian ad Litems with you and will work to get someone appointed that will work well with you and your family.
What does the GUARDIAN AD LITEM DO?
The job of the GAL is to represent the best interests of the child or children involved. They do not necessarily advocate for what the child or children involved want to do. While what the child or children involved want to do is a factor that will be considered by the Courts and the GAL, it is not the only factor. The GAL will meet with each parent and child to determine the issues in the case and to listen to the concerns of all parties. The GAL will then investigate the allegations and concerns of each party so that they can ultimately report back to the Court about those allegations. During their investigation, the GAL may meet with other individuals such as other family members, police friends, and others to gather more information. When they report back, they make a recommendation about custody and visitation in your case. Our child custody lawyers make sure to send appropriate levels of information and evidence to the GAL to make it easy for them to identify and investigate our client’s concerns.
Who pays for a GAL?
Usually, the Court orders each parent to contribute to the costs of a Guardian ad Litem. This is most often done on a 50/50 basis. In some cases, the Court may order one parent to pay more or all of the cost. This usually happens where there is a significant disparity in the income of the parties or if the GAL is being appointed at the request of one parent or as a result of the actions of one party (for instance in cases where there is evidence that one parent is abusing the child or using drugs). In some cases, the parties may qualify for a GAL at no cost to them, based on their income.
If you are seeking to establish a custody plan for your child, contact the St. Charles child custody lawyers at Flesner Wentzel to discuss whether you need a GAL to represent your children’s best interest. Or we can help to modify an existing plan because the current plan no longer works for your situation and there are allegations of abuse and neglect. Call us at 636-442-4529. Consultations are free, and we offer flexible payment plans. Se habla Español.