- Timothy J. Conlon is an experienced divorce attorney in Providence, Rhode Island...
Providence Guardian Ad Litem Lawyer
A child may need a Guardian ad litem (GAL) because the atmosphere between his parents has become so toxic that they are incapable of reaching agreements about custody and visitation that serve the child's needs. A parent may suspect alienation, undue influence or parental impairment and desire an investigation by a neutral party. An older child may express a desire to change residences but you may not want her involved in the court contest that arises if both parents do not consent. The child may have special needs that must be addressed in custody and visitation orders. A Guardian ad litem (GAL) is a lawyer or mental health professional appointed by the court to conduct an investigation and report to the judge regarding the best interests of the child whose parents are getting divorced.
A GAL is appointed only for purposes of the divorce proceeding. The GAL is discharged when the final decree of divorce is entered or sooner if all the issues for which s/he has been appointed have been resolved earlier. The parents always retain all their rights a legal guardians of the child. Parents cannot hire a Guardian ad litem. But, one or both parents can ask the court to appoint a GAL to protect the rights of their children. If you think your children need a GAL ask your lawyer to file a motion requesting the appointment of a GAL.
Court orders appointing a GAL set out the tasks of the GAL. In most cases, the court is asking for recommendations about custody, physical placement and/or visitation. Sometimes a GAL will be appointed to speak to an older child about his/her preference in living with either parent. GALs are appointed to investigate mental health, substance abuse and alienation issues and develop appropriate visitation plans for children. Relocation of one of the parents is a frequent source of contention between divorced parties and a GAL can be appointed to provide the court with information about the desired move. The GAL is paid by the parties. The court does not pay the fees of the GAL in domestic cases. The GAL fees must be reasonable and consistent with those charged by similar professionals. A GAL may ask for a retainer before commencing his/her investigation.
There are both laws and standards that describe the duties and responsibilities of the GAL. The statutory authority can be found at R.E.G.L 15-5-16.2. The Chief Judge of the Family Court has issued an Administrative Order (2006-02) setting forth the credentialing process as well as the rules governing the appointment and performance of GALs in domestic cases.