Working with a Guardian Ad Litem

Let me set the scene. You are in Family Court. The judge has just appointed a Guardian Ad Litem – the dreaded “GAL”! You are being told that the GAL has a lot of sway. Indeed, you are told that the GAL is the court’s eyes and ears. The shear thought of the judge’s eyes and ears coming to your home and interviewing you is terrifying. You start to fret because you don’t know how to handle the situation. What do you do?

My advice is to look at the GAL’s appointment as an opportunity. You are finally going to have the opportunity to persuade someone that your position is the right position. Try to embrace the GAL. Let the GAL know that you trust them to make the right decision. Show confidence in your position. Avoid overstating your position and be clear and concise when communicating. On the subject of overstating your case, allow me to liken the experience to dating.

While I haven’t had the pleasure of dating for quite a while, I feel pretty confident that Rule #1 when dating is not to be too eager. When you come on too strong, it’s possible you won’t get a second chance to show off all that charm you have. So, be under control. Seduction takes a little time – so I’m told. When we speak to people, we use different voices. We have a teaching voice. We have an angry voice. We have a business-like voice. We have a voice for all occasions. We morph into and out of various voices in order to make our point. Think about the voice you should use when meeting with and dealing with the GAL. This individual is a stranger to you and to your problem; so treat the GAL as a guest who is there to gather facts.

Find the voice who speaks well with strangers. Here are some proposed rules when dealing with a GAL: (1) Whenever you communicate with the GAL, be clear. A lack of clarity is a danger sign. (2) Be concise when communicating with the GAL. Chances are that you are but one of many cases the GAL has. Respect the GAL’s time by being concise. (3) Never hide anything from the GAL. Be transparent. A GAL will regard a person who hides things as a dangerous person. It is human nature to feel that way. (4) Never be arrogant when dealing with the GAL. If you give the appearance of being better than your opponent, the GAL will sense danger. (5) Never, ever lie to the GAL.

A person who lies to a GAL can likely never recover from the lie. When I try a case, I attempt to state in one or two paragraphs how and why we are going to prevail. I then try to state in one or two paragraph how I think my opponent will try to prevail. I might suggest you do something similar before meeting with the GAL. Do you know your case well enough to sum up your position in one or two paragraphs? If you can do this, this is a great way of starting the discussion with a GAL. Remember the law of primacy and recency.

This means that the most important things you say will be the first and last things you communicate. Try to remember to have a good opening and a good close. That’s the best way to make a lasting impression. Thinking in terms of a theme is good thinking. Do you have a theory of your case? Can you reduce that theory to a memorable catch phrase. Good luck working with the GAL. I have faith that you will do a good job.