When a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) makes his or her recommendation one parent is not going to be happy with the outcome. If you are have received a less than favorable recommendation, don’t panic. The GAL is not your judge and accordingly, will not be rendering decisions in your case. You need to remember that the recommendation of the GAL becomes his or her “client” and therefore he or she needs to present evidence to support it. Just like your lawyer needs to present exhibits and witnesses to support your position, the GAL needs to present evidence and witnesses to support his or her recommendation. While judges do give GAL recommendations great weight, it is against public policy to simply rubber stamp the recommendation without a full hearing.
The GAL should expect that a parent will respectfully challenge him or her by asking the basis for the recommendation. The litigants have a right to see the documents and talk to the people who were the reason for the recommendation. You also have to remember that your attorney will be afforded the opportunity to cross examine the GAL’s witnesses at trial. Therefore, if you feel that a GAL’s witness made an error your attorney can rectify that error at trial, if not before.
It is also important to remember that a GAL should not make a final recommendation until the completion of trial. Therefore, any recommendation made prior to trial is a “preliminary’ recommendation. You have the ability to change the GAL’s recommendation by heeding his or her advice prior to the start of trial.
–Rebecca K. Millenbach