What is a Guardian Ad Litem and what does a Guardian Ad Litem look for?

A Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL, is a court-appointed attorney who represents the best interests of minor children in custody disputes.  In some states, the GAL is almost always an attorney, but in Massachusetts the GAL might be a mental health worker, social worker, or lawyer.  The GAL is responsible for gathering information on the child’s well-being and the custody dispute, and then providing a report back to the court. Often, the GAL will meet with the minor child, both parties, and the child’s therapists/teachers to get a full picture of the custody issues.

Sometimes a particular issue is at the fore, such as a child’s mental illness, and the court will direct the GAL to focus his or her attention there.  Other times, the GAL is generally investigating which party is best suited to meet the best needs of the minor child.  While this is in no way an exhaustive list, the GAL might consider: the home environment of each party; the child’s relationship and level of comfort with each party; the stability of each party and its impact on the child; the child’s physical, mental, moral, and emotional health; and the child’s education.