Sometimes there are more parties in a Minnesota child custody case than just the mother and the father. Sometimes the court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent the interests of the child and advise the court with respect to custody and parenting time. Sometimes this appointment is mandatory, such as in cases where the court has reason to believe the child is a victim of domestic abuse or neglect, and sometimes this appointment is only permissive, meaning the court can, but does not have to, appoint a GAL. Due to budget constraints, permissive appointments are becoming less available. Obviously, some counties have more resources available than others.
Pursuant to Minnesota statute §518.165, subd.2a, when a GAL is appointed to a Minnesota family law case, the GAL has the following responsibilities:
1) to conduct an independent investigation to determine the facts relevant to the situation of the child and the family; this investigation must include:
- reviewing relevant documents;
- meeting with and observing the child in the home setting and considering the child’s wishes, as appropriate; and
- interviewing parents, caregivers, and others with knowledge relevant to the case.
2) to advocate for the child’s best interests and for appropriate community services;
3) to maintain confidentiality of information;
4) to monitor the child’s best interests throughout the proceedings; and
5) to present written reports on the child’s best interests.
The information gathered and presented to the court by the GAL is very persuasive. The court is likely to order something substantially the same or similar to the recommendations of the guardian. To discuss whether appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem might be appropriate in your case, our Minnesota family lawyers can offer you a consultation.