BadgerLaw.net Faces Collage
BadgerLaw.net is maintained by Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. Legal
  LAW Blue Circle with Scales logo  
 

Legal Action of Wisconsin Home Page

Legal Action of Wisconsin's Publications Page

Divorce in Wisconsin

Custody and Physical Placement: Frequently Asked Questions

Guardian Ad Litem

Paternity

 
 
 
GUARDIAN AD LITEM

A "guardian ad litem", or GAL, is an attorney who is appointed by the court to represent the best interests of minor children who are involved in a court action. A guardian ad litem may be appointed in any action affecting the family in which the court has reason for special concern as to the future welfare of the minor children. If the parents cannot agree on custody or placement of the children, a GAL will be appointed.

WHAT WILL THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM DO?
The guardian ad litem will collect information in order to make a recommendation to the court regarding custody, periods of physical placement, child or family support, and any other relevant matters regarding the children. S/he may interview each of the parties in the action, including the children. The children may be interviewed either in the presence of one of the parties or alone depending on the age of the children and the GAL's preference. The GAL may also ask for personal references from each of the parties (friends, relatives, neighbors), as well as professional references (school personnel, physicians, counselors). The GAL may contact these references and any other person who might be able to assist him/her in making a recommendation. The GAL may also visit either or both parents' homes if s/he thinks such a visit is necessary.

If the case goes to trial, the GAL will act as an attorney, and he/she has the right to call witnesses and cross-examine your witnesses. The GAL will also make a recommendation to the court. Most courts take the recommendation of the GAL very seriously and give it much weight. The GAL must consider the statutory factors for custody and placement when developing a recommendation.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF A GUARDIAN AD LITEM IS APPOINTED?
Since the GAL represents the best interests of the children, and since the Judge will give significant weight to the recommendation of the GAL, you want to impress the GAL favorably. Be sure to be on time for all scheduled appointments. Do not miss an appointment if possible, but if you cannot make a scheduled appointment, be sure to let the GAL know and reschedule your appointment.

If the GAL asks you to fulfill certain tasks, such as writing a personal history, or gathering school or medical records for your children do so promptly. If you have reason to be concerned about releasing your medical, or therapy records, talk the matter over with your lawyer before signing the release of information requested by the GAL.

Be sure to let your attorney know what information you have provided the GAL.

HOW SHOULD I ACT WITH THE GAL?
Maintain a mature and respectful attitude when working with the GAL. This is not the time to run down the opposing party regarding matters unrelated to the children. The GAL wants to hear your concerns and opinions about the opposing parties' parenting of the children. S/He does not want to hear about the wrongs you feel the opposing party has done to you personally unless those acts have affected the welfare of the children. The GAL's job is not to right past wrongs and reward the better person with time with the children. The GAL is only concerned with determining what is in the best interest of the minor children.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM COMES TO MY HOME?
Keep in mind you need to make a favorable impression on the GAL so have your home clean and neat and, if the children are present, make sure they are presentable. Also, try to insure the children's good behavior so you do not need to spend a lot of time guiding their behavior. You might want to be sure that there are appropriate activities available for the children to do while the GAL is in the house. If you have any questions or concerns, consult your attorney.

WHO PAYS FOR THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM?
The judge will decide who pays for the GAL. Generally, each parent will be responsible for one-half of the fees of the GAL. The fees include the time the GAL spends on the case and investigation costs. A deposit may be required by the judge. If both parties are unable to make payments because they are indigent, the court may have the county pay the GAL fees and then have each parent reimburse the county for one-half of the total amount paid to the GAL by making monthly payments to the county. If only one parent is indigent, the court can order the non-indigent parent to pay the entire fee.

CAN I ASK FOR A DIFFERENT GAL IN MY CASE?
Only the judge can remove a GAL and appoint a new one. In general, the judge will not appoint a new GAL in a case. Only in very limited circumstances would a new GAL be assigned to your case.

Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the provision of services or in employment. If you need printed material interpreted or in a different form, or if you need assistance in using our services, please inform us. Deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired callers may reach us through the Wisconsin Telecommunications Relay System (1-800-947-3529).

The above is intended to provide general information only and is not a substitute for thorough and specific advice on an individual case. Depending on the complexity of your legal problem you may need to consult an attorney for advice or representation.

This was prepared by the staff of Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc., on behalf of low-income clients and was funded by the Legal Services Corporation, Washington, D.C. 20005. Any opinions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be construed as those of the Legal Services Corporation.

Updated: August 2004

 
 
Legal Services Corporation This web site was made possible by generous support of the Legal Services Corporation.


Home | Contact Us | Feedback | FAQ | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Legal Disclaimer | Site Map | Printable Page
© 2002 - 2009 Legal Action of Wisconsin. All Rights Reserved.