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What is a Guardian Ad Litem, and how does it work in Massachusetts?

The designation of a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to a case is a pivotal concern that can intimidate any parent who is navigating the family court system in Massachusetts. This often happens when parents are attempting to address contentious child custody issues.

A Guardian Ad Litem is a court-appointed independent investigator tasked with representing the interests of the child during legal proceedings. Their primary duty is to investigate and advocate for what they believe to be in the child’s best interests. GALs can be essential in helping ensure that the child’s voice is heard and considered in the court’s decision-making process.

What is the purpose of a GAL?

Sometimes, a family court appoints a GAL to a case when questions about one or both parents’ ability to care for their child arise. For instance, if either parent has a history of mental illness, violence or domestic abuse, a judge may be incentivized to investigate with the help of a GAL.

During the investigation, a Guardian Ad Litem will interview the child, their parents and any third party who can offer insight into the parent/child relationship. The GAL may also review the child’s school and medical records as part of the investigation.

The appointment process

Usually, the court initiates Guardian Ad Litem appointments when a judge identifies the need for a GAL to represent the child’s interests. The judge will then select a GAL from a list of available GALs available, ensuring that the selected GAL is impartial and unbiased. In addition to court-initiated appointments, parties involved in a custody case may also request the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem.

The GAL investigation

Typically, GALs conduct their investigation at the child’s home, allowing them to evaluate the child’s living environment and assess the child’s overall well-being. Therefore, you can expect home visits if a GAL has been appointed to your case.

If a GAL is appointed to your case, it’s essential to understand their function and how they work collaboratively with the court. If you have concerns about their approach or questions generally, seeking legal guidance is wise.