The role of guardian ad litems in family law

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Family Law on Thursday, May 7, 2015.

Family courts in Missouri have the power to appoint a guardian ad litem in certain cases. In general, a guardian ad litem, also known as a GAL, is an attorney who is appointed by the court to represent the interests of a child or an incompetent adult. The child or incompetent adult is then referred to as the “ward.” The GAL’s role is to conduct an investigation and provide a recommendation to the court about what is in the ward’s best interests.

Under Missouri law, the court can appoint a GAL in any family court proceeding where child custody, visitation rights, or support is at issue. This includes both divorce and child custody cases. A court will also appoint a GAL in cases where child abuse or neglect has been alleged.

While GALs are typically appointed to represent the best interests of a child, GALs sometimes appointed to represent an adult who has been declared incompetent. Legally speaking, incompetence means that the adult lacks the capacity to represent his or her own interests in court. GALs may also be appointed in custody cases where the parent is also a minor.

Once a GAL is appointed in a case, he or she must meet certain requirements. First, the GAL must appear at court hearings to represent the ward’s interests. At the hearing, the GAL can offer testimony and can also examine and cross-examine witnesses. Prior to the hearing, the GAL must take appropriate steps to determine the ward’s wishes and feelings. To do so, the GAL may interview the ward and/or any other people who have contact with or are otherwise familiar with the ward. The GAL must also request a petition to be filed with the juvenile court if the ward is a child who is alleged to have been abused, neglected, or in danger.

If a GAL has been appointed in your case, you may not be required to pay his or her fees. Depending on your income and the income of any other parties involved in the case, the state may pay the GAL’s fees. On the other hand, if your incomes exceed the threshold, you may be required to pay the GAL at an hourly rate.

A GAL plays a crucial role in family law cases. An attorney who is experienced in family law issues can help you understand the impact GAL can have on your particular case.

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