Top Three suggestions for working with a guardian appointed in a baby custody case | Kohrman Jackson & Krantz LLP


It’s no secret that a large number of Latin terms and phrases are inherent in any court case. For the unlawful – as well as those who have no experience of the court system – these foreign words, combined with the unknown of a court proceeding, can understandably add to the unnerving nature of an already unsettling experience. tear.

One such common Latin term, often used in a custody proceeding, is that of a guardian ad litem. In particular, when child custody is involved in a litigation in Ohio – whether in a divorce or private custody matter – there is a high probability that a Guardian ad litem (or GAL) will be appointed during the case. But what is a GAL? And what is the role of a GAL in a custody case?

Put simply, a GAL is a person – often an attorney – who is appointed by the court in connection with a judicial proceeding that has a child custody aspect. Ultimately, the role of the GAL in Ohio is to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the custody portion of the lawsuit and make a recommendation to the court as doing so is in the best interests of the minor child or children involved in the matter. To that end, a GAL does not directly endorse or represent any of the parents involved in the lawsuit. Instead, GAL advocates the best interests of the child, which is the legal standard a court must meet to create and enter a custody order in Ohio.


In particular, a GAL may be appointed at the request of a party to the proceeding, or a GAL may be appointed at the court’s option and therefore without such a request. Typically, a GAL is most commonly appointed in a contentious custody case – or in other words, a case where the parties disagree on some aspect of a preliminary and/or final custody arrangement for their minor child or children.

In connection with the lawsuit, GAL will be tasked with conducting an investigation. During its investigation, the GAL frequently performs a number of tasks including but not limited to:

  • questioning of the parties
  • Questioning the child or children
  • Conversations with side sources, including other family members or identified individuals
  • Obtaining and reviewing any relevant records or materials concerning the children or the parties, including those provided by the parties and/or additional sources such as schools, healthcare professionals, etc.


Ultimately, upon completion of the investigation, GAL will prepare a GAL report that will include a written recommendation to the court as to GAL’s opinion on the custody arrangement that would be in the best interests of the minor child or children. While a GAL’s recommendation to the court regarding a final assignment of custody is not binding, it is often instructive and at least closely considered by the court in the context of its analysis of the best interests of the child or children.

While GALs are often appointed and an important element in custody matters, it is (understandably) not always clear to the parties what their relationship with or involvement with the GAL should be, or how best to work with the GAL. While there is of course no one-size-fits-all approach to working with a GAL – especially since each case is unique and individual – the following three tips for parties in this context are generally applicable.

TIP #1: A PARTY SHOULD ALWAYS respond to and cooperate with a girl.

In fact, a unique feature of a GAL, compared to other people standing in court and involved in a custody battle, is that the GAL is typically allowed to speak directly with all parties to the matter, even without the presence of legal counsel. While an attorney of a party cannot contact the other party directly if he or she is represented by an attorney, the GAL is not subject to this limitation. As a result, the parties actually often have a lot of direct interaction with the GAL, including via phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings, text messages, etc.

In connection with these direct interactions, it is important that a party is always responsive, cooperative, courteous and professional towards the GAL. The reason for this is simple. Literally every interaction a party has with the GAL is effectively part of the GAL’s investigation. As such, it is not uncommon for these interactions to serve, at least in part, as the basis for GAL’s final written custody recommendation on the matter. While a party’s positive interactions with the GAL will of course not inherently lead to a desired custody outcome, it is evident that a party’s poor (or lack of) interactions with the GAL may prove particularly unhelpful when it comes to a desired custody outcome to achieve. Therefore, maintaining a good relationship with the GAL is a goal that every party in a child custody case should strive to achieve.


It is usually helpful to collect and provide relevant material materials to the GAL at the beginning of its investigation and therefore as soon as possible after the GAL’s appointment. These materials may include relevant documentation such as B. Written communications between or relating to the parties and/or the child(ren), relevant recordings, images and/or other media files, and a list of bystanders who may have relevant information to the GAL’s investigations.

Not only do these materials and witnesses serve as important evidence in many child custody cases, but they are typically the most effective means of pointing out to the GAL the issues he or she may be investigating and addressing in relation to his or her needs their investigation. Therefore, it is vitally important that these materials be made available to GAL early in the court proceedings, as they may prove insightful to guide or otherwise inform later leadership of GAL’s investigation.


It is important that a party finds an appropriate balance of ongoing communication with the GAL during the process. While it is important for a party to keep the GAL informed throughout the case of any issues that may be relevant to the child custody aspect, it is also important that a party not exercise its ability to, during the If contacting the GAL, do not abuse. For many parties, this is understandably a difficult balance to achieve, particularly when dealing with matters that may be perceived as minor.

Of course, it is important that the GAL be informed in real time if a party encounters significant or particularly worrisome challenges or difficulties with the other parent or child(ren) while the case is pending. Only by notifying the GAL can he or she investigate and consider the matter as quickly as possible. Additionally, these types of situations — and how the parties deal with them — may even factor into the GAL’s final custody recommendation, depending on the circumstances.

However, it is probably not appropriate or necessary to alert the GAL to every single custody challenge or difficulty that a party encounters during the court proceeding. In fact, this may even have the opposite intended effect, otherwise calling into question the reporter’s own behavior and intentions. Obviously, at the moment, it can be extremely difficult for the parties to distinguish between the above two circumstances. Therefore, when the question arises as to whether it is necessary or appropriate for the GAL to be informed of a particular situation or circumstance, it is usually best practice for a party to first consult with its counsel before proceeding with the GAL GAL turns.


Navigating a contentious custody matter can in and of itself be both emotionally and logistically challenging. Add another court expert, such as a GAL, and it can get even more complex.

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