Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in Alabama Family Law

Any family law case involving children may use a specialized

 legal professional known as a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem, or GAL, is geared to advocate for the best interests of the child to whom they are assigned to represent. Because children lack the agency to speak for themselves and secure legal representation, judges often assign a GAL in family law cases—particularly those wherein the matters involving children are contested.

Qualifications of a Guardian Ad Litem

In Alabama, a GAL must be an attorney licensed by the state bar. Additionally, they must have trained for at least six hours in specific topics relevant to the welfare of minors. This includes matters in criminal law, civil law, and child abandonment and neglect.

How a Guardian Ad Litem Carries Out Duties

The ultimate purpose of a GAL in Alabama is to determine the best interests of the minor for whom they are charged to advocate. Nearly every state determines child custody arrangements based on the “best interests” standard, and Alabama is no exception. However, judges in this state have a lot of dis

cretion in determining what, exactly, goes into determining the best interests of a particular child.

Therefore, a GAL will do research on many aspects of a child’s life. This research often involves visiting the child’s current home, speaking with the child, and interviewing people who are in the child’s life. A child’s GAL must also attend any relevant legal proceedings and file motions for the purpose of advocating for their best interests. At every step of the way, the GAL must also explain, to the child, what occurs at each court hearing.

What a Guardian Ad Litem Cannot Do

A GAL in Alabama is required to be impartial and disinteres

ted. This means the GAL in a particular family law case is accountable only to the child. In a case where parents do not agree on child custody arrangements, the child’s GAL must not be affiliated with either parent’s legal representation. Judges may not have any communications with GALs outside the presence of the child represented by the GAL.

It is also crucial to note that a child’s GAL is not charged with advocating for whatever the child wants to happen in the case. The preferences of children regarding living arrangements and other custody-related matters does not trump other important matters that make up the child’s overall best interests. What a GAL advocates for may or may not align with the desires of the child or either parent.

Get Knowledgeable and

 Effective Representation for Your Divorce

Our firm understands the unique relationship between parents, children, judges, and guardians ad litem in Alabama family law cases. In addition to advocating for your interests, we can advise you on best practices for communicating with your child’s GAL and preparing for the GAL’s investigation. To get your legal questions answered, call our team today at (256) 233-2025.

John M. Totten