In Massachusetts, the standard set by the legislature regarding custody (legal and physical) of minor children is what is in the children’s “best interest”. In highly contested custody cases, it is sometimes necessary to involve additional professionals to assist the Court in making this determination. Two types of professionals are Guardian Ad Litems and ARC attorneys.
Guardian Ad Litem
Guardian Ad Litems (GALs) are typically either mental health professionals who specialize in working with separating families or family law attorneys who have taken additional required training in order to act in this capacity. The appointment of a GAL can be requested by one or both of the parties or appointed by the Judge in her/her discretion. The role of the GAL is to determine what is in the best interests of the children and to provide the Court with a report regarding their investigation and their conclusion. The GAL speaks with the parties, the children and other collaterals (family members, friends, teachers, etc.). If a GAL wants to speak with the children’s therapist then a special GAL has to be appointed to determine whether or not the children’s therapist-patient privilege should be waived. The GAL’s report is available for the parties and attorneys to review at the courthouse. The GAL can be called to testify in court. Judges often given great deference to the GAL report.
The cost of the GAL is expensive and may range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the nature of the case. If the parties have assets or access to funds, the Court will often order the parties to share the cost equally. In some cases, the Court will designate that one party pay for the GAL in full or the parties […]