If you have children and are going through a divorce, you are likely to become familiar with the best interests of the child standard. This legal standard is the one by which judges in the Hoosier State make custody-related determinations. That is, judges have a legal obligation to do what is best for the kids.
Sometimes, despite what the parents and their attorneys may say, the best interests of the child are not readily discernable. In these instances, which may involve custody or paternity disputes, judges often appoint a guardian ad litem.
Who is the GAL?
In Indiana, a GAL is usually a volunteer who may or may not be an attorney. Prior to his or her court appointment, this individual undergoes extensive training on abuse, paternity, custody, ethics and other relevant matters.
What does a GAL do?
The GAL does not act as an attorney in the same way the parents’ lawyers do. That is, while the GAL is likely to entertain the wishes of the child, he or she does not have an obligation to advocate for what the child wants.
Rather, the GAL acts as an independent evaluator of the child’s interests. When determining what is in the child’s best interests, the GAL may do one or more of the following:
- Interview the child, parents, siblings and other relatives
- Talk to the child’s teachers, social workers, doctors and counselors
- Review the child’s medical and psychological records
- Conduct a comprehensive home study
After completing his or her review, the GAL prepares a report for the court. Ultimately, while the judge does not have to follow the recommendations of the GAL, the GAL’s opinions usually carry significant weight in custody and paternity determinations.