What is a Guardian ad Litem in Judicial District 15B? 
(Orange and Chatham counties)

A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an attorney or mental health professional who has obtained the required training in order to investigate, obtain information, and make written recommendations to the parties and the district court judge regarding the custody and visitation issues in a high conflict case.  A GAL focuses on providing recommendations that are in the best interest of the children. A GAL may also try mediation with the parents and their attorneys to resolve the issues affecting the party’s children.

When are they appointed in a divorce case with custody issues?

The district court judge can order an appointment of a GAL if there is a finding that the parties are in a 'high conflict case' where:

  • there has been frequent litigation concerning a custody order or parenting plan
  • mediation has been tried but was not successful or found to be inappropriate 
  • the conflict between the parents is affecting the welfare of the children
  • the parents find it impossible to reach a consensus on important issues concerning their child or children
  • there are child-related issues that are complex to resolve and require sustained and intensive focus
  • the parents can afford to retain a GAL to provide the above needed assistance

What is the process for appointing a GAL?

The district court judge will order the appointment of a GAL who has been agreed to by the parties or when the court determines that a GAL is warranted because the case is a high conflict matter.

What are the benefits of using a GAL?

Some parents may find themselves involved in a high conflict case where they spend a considerable amount of time in court fighting over issues relating to their children. Such issues could include: physical custody, choice of schools, extra-curricular activities, religious training, and summer options, to name a few that may be difficult for parents to agree on. Due to the potential harm to the children from continued conflict, a district court judge will often appoint a GAL to help the court with determining what is in the best interest of the children.  The benefit of the GAL is that they will make recommendations that can reduce the level of conflict between the parents, which will keep the parties from needing to return to court.