Given the delicate nature of child custody cases, it is no surprise that the court often goes the extra mile to protect the best interests of the child by appointing a guardian ad litem (GAL). A GAL is an attorney whose unique responsibility is to uphold what is best for the child. The GAL is not, however, required to follow the wishes of the child or keep conversations held with the child confidential.
In cases where accusations of neglect or abuse exist, a GAL must be appointed according to Missouri law. The court is also known to appoint a GAL when either parties request it or if it appears that it would benefit the overall outcome of the case.
What does a GAL do?
Missouri law indicates three main responsibilities of a GAL, which include:
- Legally represent the child at the hearing with the ability to examine, cross-examine, subpoena witnesses, and submit testimony.
- Conduct all necessary interviews with anyone who has had contact with the child to better understand the child's wishes and attitudes before the hearing takes place.
- Request the juvenile officer to file a petition in the juvenile division of the circuit court if there is evidence of abuse or neglect.
Much of the GAL's time is spent interviewing the parents and the child, as well as others who are familiar with the child, such as relatives or close friends. The purpose of these interviews is to better represent the child at the hearing.
A GAL can represent a child throughout the duration of the custody case. When the parents have come to a written agreement about the issues at hand, or the judge has made final decisions, the GAL's duties are officially complete.
If you need assistance with a child custody case of any kind, don't hesitate to get in touch with our firm. We are compassionate advocates of the individuals we represent and have over 20 years of legal experience. Call our Springfield child custody lawyer today to learn how we can help!