Toby Hollander, Esq.
Guardian ad Litem, Parenting Coordinator
112 Ludlow Street, Portland, ME 04103
207.775.0721 phone
207.775.0722  fax
e-mail


 

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THE ROLE OF THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM

The role of the GAL

 

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In the past 20 years Maine has begun to increase the use of Guardians ad Litems (GALs) in family matters cases where parents are unable to agree upon an arrangement of parental rights and responsibilities (what we used to call custody). In 1999, the Maine Supreme Court promulgated new rules for the use of GALs and at the same time published a set of Standards of Practice governing the work of GALs.

The basic role of the GAL is to be an advisor to the Court on the matter of what is in the children's best interests. The Court is required by statute to take into account a number of different factors in considering what is in a child's best interests. Understandably, the GALs advice to the Court must be based on an investigation of the same factors. This avoids the practice of calling the children into court and involving them in the litigation, which can be psychologically harmful to them.

GALs in Maine wear essentially three different hats:

  • First, as an investigator, trying to determine facts, following up on leads, and interviewing witnesses.

  • Second, as an advocate for the children to make sure that their needs are identified and are being met, psychologically, medically, and educationally as well as in the legal arena.

  • Third, the GAL serves as a representative of the children in Court. Although a GAL need not be a lawyer, they function as lawyers in the courtroom, calling and/or cross-examining witnesses and introducing evidence and testifying. While the GAL represents the children in Court, it is more accurate to say they represent the children's best interests.