When Should a Guardian Ad Litem Be Appointed?

guardian ad litem for child custody cases
As we discussed in a recent post, “Understanding The 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 marriage that is being dissolved, contested child custody cases or in cases where child abuse or neglect has been alleged.

GALs are generally appointed when a person involved in a legal case cannot adequately represent himself or herself due to being a minor child, mentally incapacitated, or aged.

In these situations, it is clear a guardian ad litem is needed to protect the interests of people who cannot protect themselves. On the other hand, what about in divorce cases where the children are loved and cared for, but the parents are locked in an ugly battle over custody?


Section 452.423 of the Missouri Revised Statutes provides that in any case of divorce or legal separation where custody, visitation, or child support is contested, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. Any party involved with the legal case can request that a guardian be appointed and file an objection to a court-appointed guardian ad litem within the required very limited period following the appointment.

So, when is it advisable to have a guardian ad litem?

Under Missouri mandatory standards for a guardian ad litem, a guardian ad litem is expected to act in the best interest of the child or children while exercising investigative powers to interview the child and anyone who may have pertinent information regarding the child’s well-being.

Generally, the guardian ad litem is granted access to school and medical records.

The court expects the guardian ad litem to make recommendations as to the child’s living arrangements, schooling, relationships, custody, visitation and on other aspects of the child’s daily life. The guardian ad litem is granted reasonable access to meet with the child and has power to subpoena witnesses to testify in court and at a deposition.


In view of the powers and access granted the guardian ad litem and the fact that the parents in court proceedings may be ordered to pay the guardian ad litem’s fees, it is crucial to understand when a guardian ad litem is warranted. The prospect of paying someone to invade your privacy and supplant your judgment when it comes to your child may be enough to motivate you and your spouse to negotiate between yourselves a custody, visitation, and child support plan you both can accept.

When that is just not possible, a guardian ad litem should be appointed to resolve those issues and in situations, which include but are not limited to, when:

  • A parent is suspected of child abuse;
  • A parent is abusing a controlled substance or alcohol;
  • The child has indicated a preference for one parent; or
  • The child is exhibiting truant, delinquent, or other at-risk behavior.


This is just a sampling of reasons why a guardian ad litem might be appointed. Each case is different, with its distinct circumstances. Contact the Galmiche Law Firm, P.C. today to consult with Jay Galmiche about your divorce or child custody questions. 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. The 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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