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

Guardian ad litem in family law child custody PA

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.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

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.

Responsibilities of GAL in Child Custody Dispute

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.

Who Pays for Guardian Ad Litem?

In private custody cases, the court may assess the cost of a GAL to the child’s parents or guardians. The way these costs are divided can vary based on the specific circumstances of the case and the decision of the court. Costs can be divided equally between parents or proportionally. Children who are in the custody of Pennsylvania’s Child & Youth Services Department are always granted the services of a GAL.

Cases Where a GAL is Appointed

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.

A GAL might be appointed in the follwoing cases:

  • High conflict custody disputes
  • Allegations of abuse or neglect
  • Parents with mental health or substance abuse issues
  • Complex cases involving special needs children
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Adoption cases

Related: 16 Factors of Child Custody in Pennsylvania

Legal Help with Child Custody

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

  4. Melinda Pendland says:

    I have a problem with a person that f normal thoughts and wishes who is still considered and child and is about to teach his 21 st Birthday he can live on his own and he asked me to marry him and now becouse he is a part of the LGBTQ community and I am 51 he isn't allowed to make decisions on his own and is in an IDD home and can cook and clean and keep his own house but is still being treated like a child and had only had the gaurdain since his 28 the birthday and will not consider him and adult and since I have been working with him .. he has blossomed alit as an adult !.. and all his gaurdain can talk about is our innaprorate relationship and we don't do anything sexual or anything wrong and I'm prohibited from talking to him or being around him.. why.. they will not explain theirselves all they do is harrses me and my fiance and I are tired of it and we need justice . See my guy isn't a child and had been housed for two years safely in and IDD home and cyf will not drop this case and drop the gaurdain and my fiance had requested the gaurdian to be dropped and they have to by pa law he is over the age of 14 and can decide what he wants and he treats me well and they won't let him be free .. what can I do as his fiance

  5. Melinda Pendland -Toland says:

    Contact me at 724-413-5480
    Ps and his ISP says he is independent and he is NOT declared mentally incompetent or incapacitated in any way and he scored high enough he isn't eligible for SSI benifits and the gaurdain cut of all money for haircuts and stuff to shave himself and the gaurdain supplies no clothing and refuses to pay for stuff hand he has to rely on food stamps becouse again she only used to give 10 dollars a week and now she has stopped it all and is telling him she is relying on him getting his SSI and they turned him down flat and just becouse he is in a IDD home they are saying he is an juvenile and aren't letting work or letting staff help him with goal like getting him training and getting a job and recently they put a no trespassing order against me for nothing and trying to prevent him from getting married that why they put the no trespassing order against me and the company isn't even involved in this all handed down by the judge becouse I had a family emergency and count show and from that second in she told me I'm not allowed and have no right to contact my fiance and she is even denying our relationship and telling everyone he isn't my fiance and not granting me to see him when I found out it is unlawful for her to do this in pa!! And the mother has no rights and seems to think she does so she is contacting me and harassing me she wants nothing to do with her child she lost him becouse of such incompetent behavior in her part when he was 4 idk how she and the sister got to see him or visit him last August they don't want anything for him.. he don't even know his mother or his Mimi and they are trying to get staff fied and gotten rid of so they can say something and move him to Florida and back to York without his consent!!.. and I found out he had the right to rejects medication and has a right to make diesiins weather he lives or does but he don't have the authority to make decisions about what he has to have for his life and who he is allowed to have in it!!.. and the mother don't care all she cares about is having him in that IDD home and I explained to her there is nothing inappropriate going on we just talk on the phone and that's all and I was his staff at one point and I was his volunteer!and I explained to her when he had romantic feelings for me I quit being a volunteer and I also explained to her that he and I don't believe in having sexual realtions before marriage and he is born again Christian and she accused me of taking advantage of her son and praying in him and I explained to her he came to me and we enjoy each other's call many and we were friends for 2 years before any of this happened !and she says she is "pissed off" about all this and trying to wrap her head around all this and .. I'm like lady what don't you understand??.. and I'm think you molested him.. and you guys molested him. This why you lost you're right when he was 4 why were you allowed to even look at him after you lost him.. they put him in foster care .. not an institution.. untill 18 and when he was 18 he got the gaurdain and CYF kept being involved andand the gaurdain was appointed. And now we have this problem and in his ISP it did NOT state he don't have rights or he is mentally incacitated!!.. so why is there a gaurdain and a court Liam involved and the court Liam put out the no trespassing order ??and my fiance hasn't had a hair cut in a month her we are learning money from gaurdain has stopped for months and staff was paying for hair cuts and his care needs and the company isn't paying them back and he hasn't had a haircut or a shave in a month he isn't allowed to get a job and social security has been denying him his disability benifits and he has been trying for a year all he wants is me and the kids and he wants to live a normal life on his own and he wants to go to college and the won't even let him have a laptop or a cellphone.. and only 3 staff and me take care of him right.. andbth gaurdain will not spend time to get to know him she don't know him and his "team' do not know him and the court Liam only had one visit and then out papers against me!!.. and that all against the law and I wanna see them profusely becouse all they are doing is making my fiance have certain thought and his mind is good and they are causing mental anguish!!.. becouse u can't see me or be with me and this all he has ants and I do too!! His health will be suffering soon because he can't eat or he can't sleep becouse of all this and they brought new staff in and all staff do is record our calls with out us knowing it and they don't even announce we are being recorded and thos judge is still letting the gaurdain us this info in court and th y keep making he and I go through courts for no reason and I told him today not the do it!!.. don't go and get a real attorney.. I'll help with everything!.. please I need this disparately

Comments are closed.