Guardian ad Litem (GALs) in Family Matters Cases
Guardians ad litem (GALs) may be appointed by the court in several kinds of cases:
- The court may appoint a GAL in divorce, parental rights and responsibilities, grandparent visitation, and guardianship of a minor cases where there is reason for concern about the welfare of the child.
Guardianship of a minor cases brought under Title 18-A of the Maine Revised Statutes may be handled by the Maine Probate Court.
Who may be appointed to be a GAL in family matters cases?
A GAL may be an attorney or a licensed mental health (MH) professional.
Duties of the GAL in family matters cases
The duties of a GAL in a family matters case are spelled out in the court’s order assigning the GAL. Common duties include making recommendations about parent-child contact and the child’s primary residence.
The court’s order will say whether the order is for a limited purpose, a standard appointment, or an extended appointment. The type of appointment affects the GAL’s duties and the length of time the GAL participates in the case. See a sample Order Appointing Guardian ad Litem (GAL) (FM-125).
- Meet and talk to the child (if over the age of three), parents, and any adults living in the home where the child regularly lives.
- The court may also order the GAL to interview teachers, mental health professionals, the child’s pediatrician, and other people who have information about the child.
- The court decides the extent of the GAL’s duties based on the facts of the individual case.
- The GAL may not do more or less without the court’s permission.
How is the GAL paid for his or her services in a family matters case?
The GAL is paid by one or both of the parties as specified in the appointment order.
In determining the responsibility and allocation for payment, the court considers:
- The income of the parties;
- The marital and non-marital assets of the parties;
- The division of property made as part of the final divorce order;
- Which party requested appointment of a guardian ad litem, if applicable; and
- Other relevant factors.
What if I disagree with the GAL’s report in my family matters case?
If, as a parent, you disagree with the GAL’s report or recommendations, you or your lawyer have a right to call the GAL as a witness and question him or her in a court hearing. If you do not have a lawyer in the case, you will need to call the GAL as a witness and do the questioning directly. Your questions must be related to the case and be allowed by the Maine Rules of Evidence. The court will instruct you if any of your questions are not allowed.
Making a complaint about the GAL
If you have a serious concern about misconduct, bias, or other action of the GAL see the Making a Complaint about a Guardian ad Litem page.