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What is the role of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in a child custody case in North Carolina?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | Divorce, Family Law |

A Guardian ad Litem, or GAL, plays a crucial role in safeguarding the best interest of children in North Carolina child custody cases. Acting as an independent advocate, the GAL’s sole responsibility is to represent the child above all else – GAL is not there for the parents or the court. The GAL is appointed by the court and is either a trained volunteer or an attorney.

When is a GAL Appointed in a North Carolina Custody Case?

In any custody case, the child’s voice is crucial, yet it’s often lost in the conflict. A GAL ensures that the voice is heard. A GAL might be appointed if:

  • There’s a complex custody situation where the child’s interests may differ from those of the parents.
  • There’s questionable living conditions.
  • There’s a concern for the child’s safety and well-being.

What Does a GAL Do?

The duties of a GAL can be broken down into several key areas:

Investigation: The GAL dives deep to understand the child’s world. They will talk to the child, the parents, family members, teachers, and others to get a complete picture of the child’s life.

Advocacy: The GAL stands up for the child’s best interests in the courtroom. They are the child’s voice in the legal proceedings.

Recommendations: After a thorough investigation, the GAL advises the court on what they believe is best for the child, from living arrangements to visitation.

Monitoring: Sometimes, the GAL keeps an eye on how things are going even after the court has made a decision, making sure the child’s needs are still being met.

The Impact of a Guardian ad Litem’s Recommendations

The recommendations of a GAL carry significant weight in court. Judges recognize that GALs have one goal: the child’s welfare. This means their suggestions can greatly influence the outcome of custody proceedings. Here’s how a GAL can impact the case:

  • They provide a comprehensive view of the child’s life, which parents might not fully articulate.
  • Their impartial stance means they focus solely on the child, not parental disputes.
  • They can spot issues that might not be immediately apparent to the court or the parents.

Not every child custody case in North Carolina involves a GAL, but if one is appointed in your case, understanding their role is crucial. If you’re navigating a custody battle and need compassionate legal guidance, our experienced team is here to assist you every step of the way.


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