Even in the best circumstances, divorce affects everyone in the family — particularly younger children who cannot totally grasp what is happening and why family life has to change. When parents go through the divorce process with a cooperative spirit, the children typically fare better because their parents are naturally looking out for their best interests.
Our Minneapolis custody attorneys do everything possible to encourage parents to work together to create the best possible future for their children. Unfortunately, when cases are highly contentious, the courts (or possibly the parents) may identify the need to appoint a specially-trained person, known as a guardian ad litem (GAL), whose sole interest is to protect the interests of the children.
How the Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Program Works
In accordance with subsection 518.165, Guardians ad Litem for Minor Children, of the Minnesota Statutes, there are two basic situations in which a GAL can be assigned to represent children:
- Required appointment is determined by a judge in proceedings for child custody when custody or parenting time with minor children is at issue if the judge believes that the children are victims of domestic child abuse or neglect.
- Permissive appointment may optionally be arranged in child custody cases when there is no allegation of abuse or neglect, but custody and parenting time issues cannot easily be resolved.
GALs are not attorneys, and they do not work in conjunction with any social service organizations of the state, nor do they provide legal representation for the children in court. Their role is to advocate for children by conducting extensive research into their lives so they can make objective recommendations to the court regarding custody and parenting time issues. Of course, the specific types of required research are unique to each situation, but it typically includes any of the following:
- Interviews with the children and significant people in their lives
- Record reviews that include social service, medical, school, psychological and criminal reports
- Meetings with other professionals involved with the children and their families
This type of information allows GALs to make recommendations in court regarding the best short- and long-term plans for the children. Then they monitor the plans ordered by the court to help ensure that everything is being done to meet the best interests of the children.
GALs Can Facilitate a Challenging Divorce Process
Many things can complicate the path toward developing the most appropriate terms of divorce, but issues pertaining to the children can be the most emotional — and the most contentious concerns. It may seem like adding another person to the process would serve to complicate issues. However, the research and recommendations provided by a GAL can actually add the objectivity and perspective needed to make the best decisions to help the children get through the divorce and do well in the future.
Clearly, not every divorce requires a GAL. In most cases, our Minneapolis child custody lawyers have the skills and tools needed to help parents gain the objectivity they need to negotiate terms that create the best futures for their children. We also have experience working effectively with GALs when they are needed. Call us at 763-323-6555 or use our convenient contact form to learn how we can help protect the interests of your children throughout the divorce process and into their futures.