What Is a Guardian ad Litem and What Do they Do?

If you have a high-conflict Utah divorce or child custody case, you might well encounter a guardian ad litem. 

Guardians ad litem (GAL or, plural, GALs) are attorneys who work for your children.

There are two types of GALs in Utah.  

The first type is a public GAL. Public GALs are lawyers who are state employees. They investigate cases of abuse and neglect. These types of GALS are usually appointed in protective order and child protective order cases.

The second type is a private GAL. Private GALs are not state employees; they are private-practice attorneys. Private GALs are those appointed in high-conflict divorce and child-custody cases.

Each type of GAL conducts an independent investigation and make recommendations regarding the best interests of your children.

The investigation process might take any number of forms, but it almost always includes, at a minimum, the GAL sitting down and talking with your kids about how things are going.

Depending on the child's age, the GAL will ask what the child wants to do (e.g., where he or she wants to live, etc.).

(To see the statute governing private GALs, read here.)

Who pays for a GAL?

Who pays for a GAL depends on a couple things.

First, it depends on the type of GAL. You don't pay for public GALs since they are government employees. You do pay for private GALs.

Second, who makes what is important. If one parent makes vastly more money than the other, judges and commissioners will often have that person pay more of the GAL fees.

(Note: Usually, parents end up splitting the GAL fees equally.)

Third, bad behavior can affect payment. If one party did something that necessitated a GAL (e.g., child abuse), then that person might be ordered to pay 100% of the GAL fees. 

For more information

If you would like a more in-depth explanation of how GALs work, click here.

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