Courts do not appoint guardian ad litems (GALs), unbiased third party volunteers who represents the best interests of the child, in every child custody case in Texas. The court usually only appoints a GAL in situations where there is abuse, for adoptions, when terminating a parent’s rights, or in other cases where the child must undergo a great deal of change.
What is the role of a guardian ad litem?
The GALs role is to determine what is in the best interests of the child and then explain the best interests to the courts. They get to know the child in a more intimate manner than an attorney or judge might, and take the time to understand her situation and preferences in much more depth than the court has time to. GALs seek to understand what might be the best living situation for a child and then prove their findings to the court.
Children sometimes get lost in the family court system; it can be a fearful, cold place for kids and teens going through a tumultuous time. It is hard for them to make their opinions and concerns known. GALs essentially give children a voice in the courtroom and speak on their behalf.
The details regarding a GAL’s duties are in Texas Family Code Title 5, Subtitle A, Sec. 107.002. Some of the responsibilities they have in a child custody case include the following.
- Interview the child in an age-appropriate manner, as well as anyone else who has a close relationship with the child.
- Get input from the child about her family, her living situation, and what her desires are. (Note: GALs will consider a child’s wishes, but do not need to abide by them. In other words, if the child expresses that he wants to live with dad, but it is obvious to the GAL that that would not be in the child’s best interests, the GAL does not need to tell the court the child should live with Dad simply because she wants to.)
- Agree or disagree with any court orders concerning the child and explain the basis for the decision to the court.
How will the GALs testimony affect my custody case?
A GAL’s testimony can greatly affect a child custody case. These representatives are volunteers who truly care about the well-being of the children, so the courts take their testimonies very seriously. In fact, the court rarely goes against the GAL’s recommendations.
If you are going through a divorce or custody battle, it is a good idea to seek counsel from a child custody attorney if you have not done so already. Call the Texas Divorce Lawyer for a consult to discuss your case. We can answer any questions you may have about the Guardian ad Litem program and how it may affect your custody hearing.