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The Role of Guardians ad Litem in Oregon Child Custody Proceedings

During child custody proceedings, it is important to consider what is best for the child. The role of a guardian ad litem (GAL) is to represent a minor child and find what is best for them. Some parents may find it difficult when GAL is requested by another parent or is ordered by the court. Here are some things to keep in mind that may help you understand the GAL’s role in the custody proceedings.

What Is a Guardian ad Litem?

A guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a type of temporary, limited guardian whom the court appoints on behalf of a minor. They will represent the minor during the court case and will conduct investigations to determine what is in the child’s best interest. 

A GAL only has the authority to take actions directly related to the case. A GAL can agree to a settlement, sign contracts or other documents in the case, receive and distribute funds related to the case, and receive service documents on behalf of the person. They do not have guardianship of the child or any power over the parents. 

A GAL is different from other child advocates, such as child attorneys or custody evaluators. Custody evaluations are done by licensed mental health professionals capable of performing psychological testing. Child attorneys provide full, independent legal counsel for the minor and owe the same duties of undivided loyalty. The GAL is required to investigate the facts of the case, interview children and parties of the case, and testify or submit a report to the court. Unlike an attorney, the GAL can be called as a witness for purposes of cross-examination.

The Role of a Guardian ad Litem in Child Custody Cases

For a GAL to properly report to the court, they will engage in several activities. This includes random and planned home visits to assess the living situation. They may conduct formal and informal discovery, hire experts, and investigate violence or abuse between parents. Interview the parents, witnesses, and those close to the family to gain an understanding of the child’s home life. They may also interview the child for information and to learn the child’s preferences when it comes to placement. 

How Guardians ad Litem Help Children

Utilizing a third party, such as the court-appointed child, can help children from feeling left out and give them a voice in the proceedings. Children may find that they are able to speak more openly about desired placement to the GAL than they would with their parents. This can carry onto other topics as well, where the minor is involved but unwilling to speak against their parents on an issue. For example, GALs often have the ability to find and report on domestic violence to both children and adults that have been previously overlooked. In many scenarios, the GAL has been able to ensure children end up in the best possible scenarios.

Pursuing a Guardian ad Litem for Your Child

If you feel enlisting a GAL would benefit your child, there are steps you can take. The first step, like many legal processes, is to fill out the “Motion to Appoint Guardian ad Litem and Declaration in Support” and the “Order Appointing Guardian ad Litem” forms. These forms must be filed in the appropriate county and reviewed. Copies of all forms must be made for the next step, giving notice to other parties. Within seven days, notice must be provided to all involved parties, including the minor, the parents of the minor, all persons having custody of the minor, or the acting fiduciary for the minor.

Make sure to keep a copy of each notice you send and complete the certificate of mailing when sending the forms. If any objections to the appointment are filed, the court will hold a hearing. An attorney can help you navigate the ins and outs of filing for Guardian ad Litem. 

Working Effectively with a Guardian ad Litem

Whether filed by a parent or the court, it is important to work together with the GAL to ensure the best outcome for your child. General tips for working with the Guardian ad Litem include:

  • Be honest and do not lie. The truth eventually comes out.
  • Stay in touch. If updates occur, you may email or send relevant information.
  • Give them time. Allow them to do their due diligence in determining what is best for the minor.
  • Pay fees associated with their involvement.
  • Help with providing references or documentation when asked.

Documentation that is requested may include:

  • School or daycare records
  • Medical documents
  • Child Protective Service Records
  • Pay Stubs
  • Counseling and therapy reports
  • Criminal Records
  • Records of court cases of anyone living with you.

Legal Support and Guardians ad Litem

Prior to meeting with a GAL, you should complete and review any forms with your attorney. Their experience in the field can alleviate any confusion or miscommunications that might occur during this time. Your attorney can also review requested paperwork before being submitted to the GAL so they can have a record of anything that may come up in later proceedings and keep you organized. Being prepared and organized shows that you are on top of things and helps the GAL retain the information you provide. 

The GAL can play a critical role in the case, but the process can be invasive and costly for many families. Keeping regular communication with your attorney regarding your contact with the GAL and developing a strategy for the GAL process may be vital. Regele Law, LLC is an experienced firm with extensive experience in all aspects of child custody.

Regele Law, LLC: Helping Families and Children in Legal Disputes

Dealing with the guardian ad litem process can be challenging but necessary in family cases involving children in Oregon. By understanding what to expect and taking appropriate steps to prepare, you can navigate these proceedings more effectively and focus on what matters most: your children.

At Regele Law, LCC, we can help you prepare and strategize any upcoming proceedings involving child custody cases from start to finish. Schedule your consultation for personalized advice with our skilled child custody lawyers in Salem, Oregon, today.