Understanding Role of Guardian Ad Litem in Child Custody Cases

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A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an objective, impartial person the court appoints to represent 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 parents may request a guardian ad litem appointed.

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The guardian ad litem has to protect the children's best interests. The guardian ad litem is not required to advocate for what the child wants or prefers. The guardian ad litem’s duties include, but are not limited to: at the hearing, examine, cross-examine, subpoena witnesses, and offer testimony; before the hearing, conduct all necessary interviews with persons who have contact with the child to determine the child’s best interest.

The guardian ad litem can consider 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 recommend to the court 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 allowing someone else’s judgment to stand in for or replace your own and may find the guardian ad litem’s involvement in your matters intrusive.

However, it is best to 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 divorce 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 once if you apply to disqualify within the required very limited period following the appointment.

You or any other party to the case may apply for additional disqualifications of appointed guardians. Still, 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 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 about the child, the parents and others involved in the case.


Suppose you are fighting for custody of your children. In that case, 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. TheĀ Galmiche Law Firm P.C. serves the areas of Chesterfield, Ballwin, Town & Country, Wildwood, Missouri, and surrounding areas. Jay Galmiche will give you the individual attention you need, beginning with your first free initial consultation.

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