The Role of the Guardian Ad Litem in Family Court

A family court case involving children often involves a “Guardian Ad Litem,” also known as a GAL. This person is appointed by the court to represent the interests of a minor, or a person deemed incompetent. The GAL is a familiar player in child custody actions, where one is appointed, to insure the interests of the children are protected.

The “best interests of the child” is the standard in deciding cases involving children in New Mexico. GALs are brought into a wide variety of cases involving children from custody and divorce, to abuse or neglect cases. In New Mexico the GAL is a licensed attorney.

In a custody matter if the parents are amicable and come up with a plan for custody the court can endorse, there is generally no need for a GAL. The mere fact that a GAL has been appointed indicates the presence of conflict between the parties; they are not agreeing as to what is best for the child.

A GAL‘s role as the representative of a minor is to zealously advocate on behalf of the client. In this role the GAL is not meant to side with either party – the child’s wellbeing is the GAL’s only concern. If the GAL has an obvious conflict of interest, or is unwilling or unable to zealously represent the child’s best interests, any party may petition the court for an order to remove the GAL.

In the course of the litigation, the GAL will consult with the child, as well as the parents, teachers, coaches, doctors, mental health professionals, counselors, and anyone else who can provide the GAL with pertinent information about the child; then the GAL will provide a report to the Court.

As an extension of the court, the judge will generally follow the advice of the GAL. Therefore, it is in the best interests of both parties to get along with the GAL. But taking a step back, what is smarter, and more cost effective, is to work out a parenting plan without the need for a GAL’s intervention. The GAL’s involvement can exponentially heighten an already stressful situation.

And in some cases the cost of the GAL can far exceed the cost of a lawyer.

A GAL not only represents the child in the appointed proceeding, but also will continue representation for any subsequent appeals.

If you are the parent, guardian or anyone who needs advice on the law, contact the lawyers at Lightning Legal Group today – we are experienced criminal and family law practitioners ready to take on your case with great care and skill. Give us a call at 505-247-2390 for a free consultation.


Comments are closed