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6 Tips For Working with Your Child's Guardian ad litem

By Aileen F. Lang, Esq.

1. COOPERATE: Your child's GAL usually has a limited amount of time to gather information about your child and family. Help her by providing information and facts relevant to the issues before the Court. Remember- the Guardian ad litem is not your lawyer/therapist/social worker/friend - so don't use your time to "vent" or talk about all the things you don't like about your child's other parent.

2. BE HONEST and LET HER DO HER JOB: The Guardian ad litem doesn't know anything about you or your child. Her job is to conduct an independent investigation and not just rely on the "he said/she said" information she receives. She will ask lots of questions and sometimes you may feel that all her questions mean she doesn't like you. She is only doing her "due diligence" and trying to get the facts or specific details about the issues. If she asks you for specific information or documents, help her to do her job by getting what she needs as quickly as possible.

3. COME TO YOUR GUARDIAN AD LITEM MEETING PREPARED: Bring your Court papers, Orders or any other relevant documents. Bring the names and contact information for any professionals (ie therapists, doctors, etc.) working with you or your child. Bring the names and contact information for friends and family members who know you and your child. Know the name of the school your child attends and his teacher's name. If your child has special medical or educational needs, bring any information you have about this need. If you have concerns about the other parent, try and think of some specific examples which led you to have these concerns. In other words, think about how you can give the Guardian ad litem a good snapshot of your child and your relationship with your child.

4. BE RESPECTFUL OF THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM 'S ROLE: Remember, the GAL is your child's advocate not the referee in the dispute between you and your child's other parent. If there is an important matter affecting your child that you believe the GAL needs to know about, keep your concerns "child centered" rather than about your needs or feelings. Don't flood him with text messages/emails between the two of you. Don't call him about every issue where the two of you can't agree.

5. NEVER COACH YOUR CHILD: Telling your child about the pending Court case or the adult issues between you and her other parent is never a good idea. Telling your child what to say to his Guardian ad litem is even a worse idea!

6. MEETING WITH THE CHILD: Your child's Guardian ad litem will meet with your child. It is rare that you will be included in the meeting. Some meetings may take place at school and some in the Guardian ad litem's office.

FINALLY: The Guardian ad litem has no authority to make changes to the court's order. Only the Judge has the authority to make decisions concerning your child. The Guardian ad litem's role is to make recommendations to the Judge.

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Super Lawyers | K. Matthew Long