If you are currently in the court process regarding issues with your child, you may have heard your lawyer or the judge refer to the appointment of a Child Representative or Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). You may have been excited about the idea until you realize they cost money too. A Child Representative is an attorney that is appointed to represent the best interests of the child. The Child Representative has a confidential attorney-client relationship with your child and has the same functions as an attorney would.
A GAL has a similar function, except that he/she acts more of a guardian than an attorney. The GAL will also file a report with the court regarding his/her recommendations. A GAL does not have a confidential relationship with your child and can testify to what the child has told him/her in Court. A judge is more likely to appoint a GAL when the child is younger and not yet about to express himself clearly.
Most Child Representative’s or GAL’s are private attorneys, and therefore charge their usual attorney rate and will require a retainer. Most judges will divide the retainer equally between both parents, unless there is good cause to deviate.
Depending on the facts of the case, a Child Representative or GAL can help your case. For one, they can act as mediators and can help settle a case. Because the judges know that they represent the child’s best interest, they will usually agree with their recommendations. As a result, most cases with Child Representatives or GAL’s settle before trial. Secondly, if there are serious issues that you want to bring to the judge’s attention, a Child Representative or GAL can facilitate that by being the voice for the child. There are situations, however, when a Child Representative or GAL may not benefit your case, especially if they do not see the facts the way you do.
Either way, it is important that you talk to an attorney to discuss the pros/cons of having a Child Representative or GAL appointed in your case.