What is a guardian ad litem?

It is commonplace for parents getting a divorce to have joint custody of their children. These days parents will also divide parenting time more equally. Ideally, this is a parenting plan where both parents are regularly involved in the lives of their children. However, some divorces end in acrimony and one parent may seek sole custody of the children because they believe (right or wrong) that it is in the best interests of the children.

This means litigation where the court may employ help from a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the rights and interests of the children during divorce, child custody matters, adoption or other family law issues related to children. They are attorneys licensed to practice in Colorado, and their primary goal is determining the best interests of the children, regardless of what the kids may say.

A Factfinder

If the judge feels that they are getting divergent accounts of the home life or there are other areas of concern, they will assign a GAL to the case. The role of the GAL is to spend time with the family members and look at the home environments of the parents to determine which parent or what arrangement best serves the needs of the children.

A GAL conducts interviews with parents, children and others (teachers, coaches, friends, and therapists) who can provide knowledgeable insight into the dynamic and/or how it will look after the divorce. There may also be an issue of competency of the parent due to past health issues, substance abuse, mental illness or some other reason.

Finding out the truth

Colorado GALs for children are regulated and paid through the Colorado Office of the Children of the Child’s Representative. While this adds additional steps to the divorce, it may be necessary for parents who wish to stay involved in the lives of your children. Attorneys and parents can make their case before a judge, but a GAL’s unique role as an unbiased observer helps ensure that the truth comes out in regards to the relationship a parent has with their children.

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