A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a community volunteer appointed by the court to serve children by advocating for their best interests before the court. When appropriate, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem in a child custody action. If you’re currently involved in or about to enter a contested custody battle, divorce, or separation, this episode will help you understand the role of a GAL and what you can expect from the process.
In this episode, Touchstone Family Law founder Leigh Sellers speaks with Hollie Bennett of Palmetto Guardian and Adoption Services about her work as a guardian ad litem. They examine what the position of a guardian ad litem entails and their various responsibilities related to child custody cases. In general, the guardian ad litem is assigned by the court when the judge feels that he can’t be fully informed about the case at hand. They are advocates for the children, conducting a fair, balanced, and impartial investigation by collecting information through interviews, home visits, and other means. 01:52
Hollie also debunks a few misconceptions about guardian ad litem. GAL are not tools to be used by either of the parties involved in divorce and do not represent one side or the other. 03:42 GAL are not there to care for the children, nor do they possess the same decision-making powers as the court. 18:12 While GAL are encouraged to make informed suggestions, the significant decisions lie with the judge and the parents. 19:40
Leigh and Hollie also discuss what types of information guardian ad litem collect and the various qualifications required. 8:15 Attending training sessions and developing connections within the community are other requirements for those interested in becoming a GAL. 29:04
Hollie also reveals the disadvantages of litigation and how this adversarial process has the potential to inflict additional immediate and long-term damage upon the children. As the guardian ad litem, it is incumbent upon them to encourage parents to work together to find alternative methods of resolving their disputes and explore options like collaborative mediation.
For more information on guardian ad litem, adoption, and the collaborative process, you can visit www.palmettosocialwork.com.
The insights and views presented in “Welcome to Splitsville” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey through divorce, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at www.TouchstoneFamilyLaw.com