Understanding The Role Of A Guardian Ad Litem

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is someone appointed by the court who serves as an advocate for a minor in divorce or the end of a nonmarital relationship. A GAL may be appointed if the child's parents are involved in a contentious custody dispute and the court wants clarity on the child's best interests from a third party. Either party involved in a divorce also may request a GAL.

The GAL will assess the child's situation and provide an independent recommendation regarding what is in the child's best interest in terms of physical or legal custody, parenting plans, living arrangements with siblings or extended family, child support or other aspects of the child's life.

In order to serve as a GAL in North Dakota, you must be an attorney who has completed training specific to the GAL role. In addition, GALs must complete continuing education every three years to remain eligible to serve in that capacity.

We also help clients create legal guardianships to protect adult children with special needs or an elderly person whose mental health is deteriorating. Guardianship allows the guardian to make legal, financial and health care decisions for the incapacitated person, who is known as the ward.

The court often appoints a GAL in a family law case when there are accusations of sexual abuse, domestic violence, alcohol or substance abuse, or other concerns about a child's care and safety. Brudvik Law Office has an attorney on staff who serves as a GAL. This also benefits us when we represent a client in a case that involves a GAL.

Factors Considered

When assessing what is in a child's best interest, a GAL looks at numerous factors that can affect the child's well-being, including:

  • The child's age
  • The child's relationship with both parents
  • The stability of the child's community outside of the home, including school
  • The parents' ability to work together to serve the child's best interests
  • Each parent's mental and physical health, including any substance abuse problems

We welcome the opportunity to discuss your family law matter involving children. Our focus is always to protect your child's best interest. Call or use our online contact form to schedule a meeting. We represent clients throughout North Dakota and western Minnesota from offices in Grand Forks, Fargo and surrounding communities.