Guardian ad Litem Investigatorsby Ponichtera & DeNardis, P.C. on 06/22/11
Custody cases are often the most difficult cases dealt with by the Probate and Family Court. The information presented to the Court in a custody case initially, are often allegations raised by one parent against the other. The other parent may respond with contradictory allegations against the other parent. The Court is presented with the dilemma of which parent to believe as the situation may often be described as "he said - she said". Without independent documentary evidence verifying a parent's allegations, a Court can struggle with what is in the best interests of the child. To assist the Court with this thorny problem a Judge has the power to appoint a Guardian ad Litem either of his or her own accord, or upon a request of one of the parents in the case. A Guardian ad Litem is an independent person who is specially trained to investigate and report back to the Court on the custodial situation. The person appointed may be a professional clinician or may be an attorney who is trained to report back to the Court to assist the judge on sorting through the various allegations that a parent may make in a particular case. It is the obligation of the Guardian ad Litem to investigate facts in cases involving the care and custody of minor children and other matters that implicate the interests or rights of children. The information gathered by the Guardian ad Litem is confidential, and will not be released to outsiders, but it is their duty to detail to the Court what they have learned.
A guardian ad litem will often meet and interview parents directly, meet with school personnel, treating medical professional, and others whom they feel will have information on what may be in the child's best interests. The GAL will request a release to acquire medical, health and hospital records. They will meet with the child as well. Often this investigator will travel to the parents' homes and view each parent with the child. All of this information can be invaluable to a judge who is viewing the situation from the vacuum of a Court room. The report is typically impounded so the personal information within it does not find its way onto the internet or some other forum.
In some situations the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will pay the cost for the guardian ad litem. But more likely than not the parents will each share the cost for the guardian ad litem, and will be required to provide the GAL with a lump sum in advance for their anticipated costs of evaluating the matter.
The GAL is not an advocate for either parent but is an information gatherer for the Court. Probate Court Standing Order 1-05 provides standards for Guardian ad Litem/Investigators. If you have a question about whether a Guardian ad Litem will be helpful in your family law situation or some other question please call us today.