What is a Guardian Ad Litem in a Pennsylvania Child Custody Case?

Guardian ad litem in family law child custody PA

By Tom Clark, Family Law Attorney

Although the courts generally prefer that couples and their attorneys work through parenting and custody issues themselves via alternative dispute resolutions, there are times when it becomes necessary for a third party to intervene. In high-conflict custody cases, when it becomes almost impossible for the parents to agree on even the most minor of issues, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for a child.

The GAL is an attorney who is responsible for representing the best interests of the child; — which is not always what the child, or the parents, want. To do so, the GAL will meet with each child and interview the parents and caretakers. She or he will also review any relevant court, psychological and school records. The goal is to provide the court with a neutral third party who can objectively evaluate what arrangements will best address the child’s needs and safety.

Having conducted a thorough review of the case, the GAL can provide a written report to the court. Both parties may review this report and provide comment. The GAL is also responsible for explaining the proceedings to the child (to the extent that they are capable of understanding) and is also obliged to express the child’s wishes to the court.

In private custody cases, the court may assess the cost of a GAL to the child’s parents or guardians. Children who are in the custody of Pennsylvania’s Child & Youth Services Department are always granted the services of a GAL.

Although every case is different, the courts generally prefer to avoid appointing GALs. It is always best for the parents to reach agreement on their own as to what will best serve their child moving forward.

If you have custody issues and have questions about the role of a guardian ad litem, please contact us, the best child custody lawyers in PA. We have served as GALs and represented clients in custody cases where a GAL has been appointed. We’re happy to help you better understand what this means for you and your child.

  1. Brian says:

    Who/what is the oversight committee for the G.A.L.? Who does the G.A.L. answer to?

  2. Rhiannon Butler says:

    I am requesting further information and process of retaining a GAL for my minor child

  3. Ann Gambino says:

    I am grandparent of children in foster care . My daughter died and I am out of state grandmother where they used to live in delaware . I had children before and had been in their life since they were born . There mother my daughter died recently as I was away out of country and did not get call right away to come get my grandchildren. My daughter got mad and took me off because she was arrested on dui and other charges so she was mad as a guilty daughter of a relapse does . I have been after children services for months to get my grandchildren as I lived out of state . Now I’m being played by children services in Pennsylvania because I am told court appointments a legal attorney on childrens behalf and he decides if grand parent gets children or foster care parents do . I’m so confused as my back ground check came back perfect but new caseworker forgot to do paperwork for out of state grandparents

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