What is a GAL in Massachusetts?

September 6, 2023 O'Connor Family Law Family Law

Guardians Ad Litem- What Exactly Do They Do?

Hey there, it’s your favorite team at O’Connor Family Law, and we’re here to address some common questions we’ve received about Guardians ad Litem (GAL) in the Massachusetts family court system. If you’ve ever wondered what they do, how long an investigation takes, or who pays for their services, you’re in the right place. 

What is a GAL?

A GAL, or Guardian ad Litem, is a court-appointed individual that makes recommendations regarding a child’s best interests in a Massachusetts custody case. The GAL is someone who has gone through relevant training and been asked by the court, typically upon agreement or order, to investigate family law cases involving children and help the court better understand the child’s living situation. Their primary role is to conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances and allegations surrounding the case. They interview parents, children, and collaterals (third parties suggested by each parent) to gather information. These collaterals can include social workers, doctors, teachers, and more. Based on their findings, GALs make recommendations to the court.

Do GALs Favor the Parent with the Better Job?

A common misconception is that GALs might favor the parent with the higher-paying job. In reality, a parent’s job has little influence on GAL decisions, unless extreme circumstances like homelessness or excessive work hours that impede childcare are involved. GALs focus on the child’s best interests, not financial status.

Read more: Do GALs Just Side With the Richer Parent?

What Shouldn’t You Say to a GAL?

Wondering what you should or shouldn’t say to a GAL? It’s a case-specific matter, and the nuances are best discussed with your attorney. They can guide you on how to present your side of the case effectively when speaking with the GAL.

How Long Does a Guardian ad Litem Investigation Take?

We’d all love quick resolutions, but GAL investigations can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months or more depending on the complexity of the case. Some cases are wrapped up relatively quickly while others can drag on for much longer. It’s essential to ensure you’re pursuing a GAL for valid reasons, rather than to simply delay proceedings. If you think that your ex is pursuing a GAL investigation as a way to drag out the legal process, you may want to ask a Massachusetts family law attorney about ways to protect yourself and navigate the process more efficiently.

Who Pays for GAL Services?

The cost of a GAL depends on the judge’s order. In Massachusetts, it’s typical for both parties to share the expenses. However, the judge may later reallocate these costs, considering each parent’s financial situation. In some instances, the state might cover the GAL fees, but this shouldn’t be your primary hope when requesting one.

What Does a GAL Look For?

As someone who has served as a GAL, I can share some insights into what we seek during investigations. We look for facts that go beyond mere he-said-she-said, seeking evidence and documentation to discern the truth. We also evaluate the practicality of each parent’s proposed parenting plan based on their circumstances.

Additionally, we consider any other investigations or reports by neutral third parties, such as the Department of Children and Families (DCF). We pay attention to issues like domestic violence, substance abuse, and the overall suitability of the environment for raising a child. Furthermore, we evaluate how parents take responsibility for their actions and plan to prevent future mistakes.

It’s important to note that every GAL has their unique approach to investigations, so discussing your case strategy with your attorney is crucial.

In conclusion, a Guardian ad Litem plays a vital role in child custody and family law cases, ensuring that the best interests of the child are at the forefront of any decisions and agreements. If you ever find yourself in a situation involving a GAL, remember to approach it for the right reasons and with a clear plan backed by evidence. And as always, consult with a Massachusetts family law attorney for personalized guidance.

Read: What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?

I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any more questions or need legal assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at O’Connor Family Law. Give us a call at 774-703-3755 to get started today.