Get Help From a Connecticut Family Lawyer who is a Certified Guardian Ad Litem
Are you a parent who is going through a custody dispute in Connecticut? If so, you may have come across the terms “Guardian Ad Litem” and/or “Attorney for Minor Children.” We want to make sure that you have access to the knowledge, information, and resources that you need to do what is best for yourself and your family. Below, you will find an overview of the key things to know about a Guardian Ad Litem and Attorney for Minor Children in Connecticut.
At The Family Law Firm Healy Eliot + McCann, our New Canaan family law attorneys provide compassionate, reliable legal representation to clients. In advocating for minors, we are strongly committed to protecting the legal rights and the best interests of the child. If you have any questions about the role of a Guardian Ad Litem, we can help. For a strictly confidential consultation with a certified Guardian Ad Litem & Attorney for the Minor Child, please do not hesitate to contact our New Canaan law office today.
What Is A Guardian Ad Litem?
A Guardian Ad Litem, often called a "GAL," is an independent third party appointed by the Court to become involved in a custody dispute to advance the minor child or children's best interests. The GAL is usually an attorney or a mental health professional and must have completed specific training required by the Connecticut Judicial Branch.
The GAL is typically expected to make recommendations that are carefully considered by the Court and often help facilitate settlement of complicated custody issues. In other words, a Guardian Ad Litem is a trained professional who is tasked with ensuring that the child's health, safety, well-being, and emotional needs are fully accounted for by the court.
How Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do Their Job?
To perform their role in the child custody process, a GAL may be granted significant investigatory power. They are often able to access sensitive information related to the parents and the children. Among other things, a Connecticut state court could ask a Guardian Ad Litem to:
- Interview the child (children)
- Interview each of the parents
- Speak to knowledgeable third parties
- Review records
- Participate in legal hearings
- Encourage parents to resolve a matter
- Make specific recommendations to the court
Ultimately, GAL's are professionals tasked with making sure that all relevant facts are known. With full information, a GAL can make specific (or general) recommendations regarding a child's physical, emotional, and psychological needs.
Will A Guardian Ad Litem Be Appointed In My Custody Case?
No. not necessarily. In Connecticut, a Guardian Ad Litem is generally only appointed in custody & visitation disputes that involve significant conflict. There are two ways for a GAL to be appointed in our state.
- The judge decides the Guardian Ad Litem is required
- A parent requests that a Guardian Ad Litem be assigned
If a GAL is appointed, it is their responsibility to ensure that the best interests of the child are properly considered by the court. Even if requested by one of the parents, the Guardian Ad Litem is not on that parent's “side” of the case—their sole responsibility is to advance the child's interests.
Does A Guardian Ad Litem Make the Final Decision On Child Custody?
No. In Connecticut, a GAL does not have the authority to make decisions in child custody or child visitation disputes. A Guardian Ad Litem is responsible for making sure that the needs and interests of the child are properly considered.
Ultimately, the power to render a final decision in a custody dispute still resides in the hands of the court. That being said, Connecticut courts do tend to give significant weight to the recommendations made by a GAL.
What Is An Attorney For The Minor Child?
An Attorney for the Minor Child, often called an "AMC," is an independent attorney appointed as legal counsel for a minor child. Like a GAL, an AMC must complete comprehensive training provided by the Connecticut Judicial Branch. While the AMC is appointed to represent and advance the minor child's legal position, an AMC must also consider the child's best interests when fulfilling their duties.
What Is The Difference Between A Guardian Ad Litem And An Attorney For The Minor Child?
Although the GAL is often a lawyer, the GAL does not provide legal representation for either of the parties or the children involved in a case. The GAL's role is to represent to the Court what is in the best interests of the minor child(ren). An AMC is specifically appointed by the Court to advocate for the child and represent the child's wishes.
No privilege exists regarding communications between the GAL and the child or the GAL and the parties. In fact, the GAL's entire file is often discoverable and subject to examination. The GAL may be a witness in any Hearings and Trials and testify about things that the child and the parties said.
On the other hand, communications between the AMC and the child are privileged. An AMC will not testify as a witness but can examine witnesses at a Trial or Hearing on behalf of the minor child.
How Do I Know If I Need A GAL Or AMC In My Connecticut Child Custody Case?
Not every divorce or custody case requires the appointment of a GAL or an AMC. In cases where there is a custody-related dispute or a parenting plan dispute that cannot be resolved by the parties, the Court may appoint a GAL to perform any of the following functions, and more:
- Investigate facts necessary to make recommendations to the Court regarding the children's best interests
- Communicate with the parties
- Communicate with the children
- Conduct home visits
- Confer with Family Services;
- Review all files and records, including: (i) Court files; (ii) DCF records; (iii) Police reports; (iv) Medical records; (v) Treatment and counseling records; (vi) Mental health records; (vii) Work records; and (viii) Educational records
- Confer with teachers and other school authorities
- Confer with professionals
- Participate in the creation of a parenting plan
- Report to the Court as requested or as deemed necessary
- Facilitate settlement of disputes.
The individual case circumstances will often dictate whether it is a GAL or an AMC appointed. The Court will consider the necessary information to advance the case and which professional assignment will best meet those needs.
The child's age and maturity will also be a factor in determining whether a GAL or AMC will be appointed. It is possible to have a GAL and an AMC involved in a case simultaneously because they have two distinct roles.
How Do I Get A GAL Or AMC Appointed For My Child?
There are three ways that a GAL or AMC becomes appointed in a custody case. First, the parties agree to the appointment and ask the Court to approve and order it. Second, one party requests a GAL or an AMC be appointed (in which case there will be a Court Hearing regarding the appointment). Third, a Court determines that a GAL or AMC is necessary in the case.
The parties pay the fees of the GAL and/or AMC. The Court will establish the initial retainer amount and the hourly fee at the time of appointment. If the parties cannot agree on an appropriate payment arrangement, the Court will make an order after reviewing the parties' financial circumstances.
How Our Certified Connecticut Guardian Ad Litem Can Help
In a custody dispute, the needs of children should never be overlooked. At The Family Law Firm Healy Eliot + McCann, we have the skills, expertise, knowledge, and experience to handle these highly sensitive legal matters. No matter the specific circumstances you and your family are currently working through, our Connecticut family law team is here to help you find the solution that works best.
Attorney Healy is a certified Guardian ad Litem, who diligently promotes the best interests of minor children in custody cases. Attorney Healy makes a point of providing sensitive advice and counsel to the individuals she represents, knowing that they require her assistance at a critical time in their lives. With a record of testimonials and recommendations from former clients, you and your loved ones can rely on our Connecticut divorce lawyers for reliable legal representation.
Connect With One Of Our Experienced New Canaan Divorce Lawyers Today
At The Family Law Firm Healy Eliot + McCann, our Connecticut attorneys know the family law cases we handle are not just about money but also about our clients and their families' well-being. Parents face immense challenges when going through a custody or visitation dispute. If you have any questions about a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), an Attorney for the Minor Child, or any related matter, we are more than ready to help you get answers.
To schedule an in-person or virtual appointment to discuss Guardian Ad Litem with one of our New Canaan divorce lawyers, please call 203-652-8018 or complete our online contact form. Our law firm serves communities throughout Fairfield County, including New Canaan, Bridgeport, Norwalk, Danbury, Stamford, Stratford, Monroe, Greenwich, Fairfield, Newtown, Ridgefield, Redding, Darien, and Brookfield.