By: Jaclyn Taylor
November 17, 2020
A Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL, is an attorney appointed by the court to represent a child involved in a legal matter and to advocate for that child’s best interest. A GAL has every right and power of an ordinary attorney in a family law case, including conducting discovery and presenting evidence. In family court, the judge may appoint a GAL on its own initiative, upon a request by a party in the case, or based on an agreement made by the parties in the case. Under Kentucky law, a GAL is automatically appointed for a child involved in cases involving dependency, abuse, or neglect. A GAL is required in adoption cases where the individual adopting the child is not a close blood relative. However, in hotly contested divorce and custody cases, either party may request that the court appoint a GAL, or the parties may agree to do so.
Once a GAL is appointed, their role includes interviewing the parties, the child, and any relevant third parties, sometimes including the child’s doctor or therapist, submitting a report to the court outlining their findings and recommendations in the case, attending court appearances, and questioning witnesses and presenting evidence at court hearings. Sometimes a child at the heart of a family court case does not have anyone looking out for their best interests, especially if the child’s parents are being accused of dependency, abuse, or neglect of the child. GALs exist to make sure the child’s best interest are at the forefront of the considerations taking place in the matter and their job is to make unbiased recommendations to the court that would result in the best outcome possible for the child.
In most Kentucky counties, Guardian Ad Litems are appointed by the judge from a pool of private attorneys that practice in their courtroom often and volunteer for GAL services. However, sometimes this pool of attorneys is an exclusive panel that is hired by the judge specifically for the purpose of having qualified private attorneys on call to represent children who need them. In divorce and custody cases, the parties often get a chance to choose an agreed upon private attorney to work in this role. Whether your family law case requires a GAL to be appointed or involves a high level of contention, rest assured that Guardian Ad Litems serve to advocate for the best interest of your child and ensure that your child is not forgotten in the courtroom.
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