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Understanding Role of Guardian Ad Litem in Child Custody Cases

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an objective, impartial person whom the court appoints to act as a representative for the minor children in a contested custody proceeding.

In cases of alleged child abuse or neglect, the court will as a matter, of course, appoint a guardian ad litem.

When there are no allegations of abuse or neglect but the divorcing parents cannot agree on custody, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. In other cases one or more of the parents may request to have a guardian ad litem appointed.

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The guardian ad litem’s duty is to protect the best interest of the children. The guardian ad litem is not required to advocate for what the child may want or prefer. The guardian ad litem’s duties include, but are not limited to: at the hearing, examine, cross-examine, subpoena witnesses and offer testimony; and prior to the hearing, conduct all necessary interviews with persons who have contact with the child in order to determine the child’s best interest.

The guardian ad litem can take into consideration factors such as the child’s comfort level with either parent and with whom the child says he or she would prefer to reside. The guardian ad litem will assess the possible custody situation from every relevant aspect and may make recommendations to the court as to how custody should be divided between the parents, where the child should reside, and the frequency and location of visitation.


As a loving parent you may resist the idea of allowing someone else’s judgment to stand in for or replace your own and may find the guardian ad litem’s involvement in your personal matters to be intrusive.

It is best, however, that you find a constructive way to work with the guardian ad litem, since Missouri law provides that it is in the court’s discretion to appoint a guardian ad litem where custody, visitation, or support is a contested issue. Further, the guardian ad litem is given broad powers to investigate matters you may view as private and personal.

As a parent, the law allows you to disqualify an appointed guardian ad litem one time if you file an application to disqualify within the required very limited time period following the appointment.

You or any other party to the case may apply for additional disqualifications of appointed guardians, but you must show good cause as to why the person should not be appointed as the guardian ad litem.

The guardian ad litem is paid a fee set by the court, who may order one or both of the parents to pay the fee.


To facilitate the performance of his or her duties as guardian ad litem, the guardian ad litem is granted the power to examine, cross-examine, subpoena witnesses, and offer testimony access to confidential information, which may include, but is not limited to, education and medical records pertaining to the child, the parents and others involved in the case.


If you are fighting for custody of your children, Jay Galmiche is a seasoned Child Custody Attorney in St Louis County with more than three decades of experience in Family Law. He is compassionate and will guide you through the many challenges of a child custody case. TheGalmiche Law Firm P.C. serves the areas of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Town & Country, and Wildwood, Missouri, along with surrounding areas. Jay Galmiche will give you the individual attention that you need, beginning with your first free initial consultation.


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