What is a Guardian Ad Litem
A Guardian Ad Litem (or GAL) is a family court appointed attorney that acts an as “arm” of the family court in Ok to investigate the parties of a Oklahoma divorce, paternity, guardianship or adoption matter, when custody and visitation are contested issues. .
The GAL will make such investigations as they deem necessary to ascertain the facts, to interview witnesses, examine and cross-examine witnesses at the preliminary hearing and trial, make recommendations to the family court in Oklahoma, and participate further in the proceedings to the degree appropriate for adequately representing the child.
The GAL’s duties include: investigating all matters concerning the best interests of the minor children, review relevant documents, reports and other information, meet with and/or observe the child, consider the child’s wishes, as appropriate, interview parents, caregivers and others with knowledge relevant to the case, for the minor’s best interests by participating in appropriate aspects of the case and advocating for appropriate community and other services when necessary, maintain the confidentiality of information related to the case, and monitor the minor’s best interests throughout any judicial proceeding.
The GAL is also granted relatively full access to any other documentation including, but not limited to: criminal records, juvenile proceeding records, and Department of Human Services records.
The GAL the compiles this information and provides the Court with a written report and recommendation as to what they believe represents the child’s best interest. Such recommendations are usually followed, although the Court will have the ultimate say and use its full discretion when making a finding as to the best interest of the children.
While the GAL is a very useful tool in a contested custody matter, their appearances in every day court matters is very limited. If an individual wishes to appoint a GAL, they will have to apply for one and most likely pay for the GAL as well, with most GALs requiring an initial retainer of $1,500.00 with both sides splitting the costs. GALs can be appointed and paid through the court fund, but the court will only grant such a GAL when neither of the parties can afford their own representation, the child is need of representation, or there are significant concerns regarding abuse and neglect.
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