A Guardian ad Litem investigation is often a stressful and intrusive process. However, it is important to remain cooperative and informative during the case. Here are some tips on how you should conduct yourself during the process.
· Return the GAL Stipulation and Questionnaire Promptly: When the GAL is first appointed, he will send out to you or your attorney a Guardian ad Litem Stipulation and a questionnaire. The GAL Stipulation is an agreement between you and the GAL that sets forth the issues the GAL will investigate, how the GAL will be paid, and other matters such as access to the children’s mental health records. The questionnaire is a form that the GAL uses to gather information and background on your family and identify issues and areas of disagreement. It is very important to complete and return these items to the GAL as soon as possible.
·Set up your initial meeting with the GAL per the GAL’s instructions: When the GAL receives the appointment, she will send you a letter with instructions. Some GALs will ask that you return the stipulation and questionnaire first, and then call to set up an appointment. Others will set up an appointment right away. Read the letter from the GAL and follow instructions for setting up your first appointment. If you do not hear from the GAL after a few weeks, call the GAL to check in and see what your next steps should be.
· Provide complete contact information for references: The GAL will ask you to provide him with references to speak to regarding you and your family. These may be friends and family, or professionals such as teachers who are familiar with either you, your coparent or the children. Provide the GAL with complete contact information for these references, including an address, telephone number and email if appropriate.
· Provide the GAL with copies of court documents, orders, and pleadings: If you do not have an attorney to manage your case for you, when the GAL is appointed make sure to provide him with copies of the court orders, pleadings or other relevant documents. It is enormously important, as the GAL only receives the GAL appointment and possibly the court order issued with that appointment. Having you provide the pleadings and court orders that necessitated the appointment of the GAL, as well as the orders for the current parenting schedule, will give the GAL important background on your case.
· Cooperate with the GAL investigation: The GAL may ask to schedule a home visit with the children, or that you bring the children to her office. The GAL may also ask for authorizations to speak to medical providers or other professionals that require a release. Respond to the GAL’s requests promptly, and provide her with information that she requests.
· Be relevant and informative: There are probably a lot of reasons your relationship with the other parent broke down. While the GAL will want a brief overview, unless the issues have significant relevance to the children, try not to spend a lot of time on non-child issues. For example, the breakdown of your marriage may have been caused by an affair your spouse carried on. However, unless your spouse is introducing the children to their new significant other or making concerning choices about priorities between the children and the new relationship, that is an issue best left to the court and your therapist.