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What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Jul 24, 2023

Author: Heidi Koeneman

In some family law cases there is a person appointed to represent the best interest of the child. The guardian ad litem, or  “GAL,” is appointed by the court to represent the best interest of the child pursuant to Indiana Code 31-9-2-50. Indiana law states that the GAL shall provide the child with services requested by the court, including researching, examining, advocating, facilitating, and/or monitoring the child’s situation. The GAL is typically an attorney, appointed to represent the child and be the child’s voice or advocate in a custody court proceeding.

A GAL does not enter the case until ordered by a judge. The GAL does a number of things in a case to assist in determining the child’s best interests. Often the GAL will conduct a home visit and interview family, including parents or stepparents, significant others, or any other family involved in the home. Sometimes a GAL will review medical records or speak with a child’s teacher. All of this is done so that the GAL can properly investigate the child’s situation and give a recommendation to the court regarding the custody of the child. The GAL may report on the child’s living arrangement, relationships, custody situation, and/or parenting time.  The report and recommendation to the court is an independent assessment of the child’s situation.

If a GAL is appointed in a case, the cost of the GAL’s services is typically split between the parties. The court may, however, order the parties split the costs differently depending on each spouse’s financial status.

While Indiana law permits a GAL to be ordered in cases in which custody and parenting time or contested between parents in a paternity or divorce proceeding, there is currently no authority that allows a court to appoint a GAL in a case involving grandparent visitation.

If a GAL has been appointed in your case, you should discuss with an attorney how to prepare for the visit, and what sort of documentation or materials are most helpful to aid the GAL in their investigation.     

Our family law attorneys are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the appointment of a GAL, whether a GAL is right in your case, as well as their own experience as GALs.