The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem and Parenting Coordinator

It is the hope of the court that you and your spouse can effectively come to decisions with regard to the custody and parenting time of your children. However, sometimes the issue of custody and parenting of a child is wrought with too much emotion and outside help is necessary. Oftentimes when the issue of custody and parenting time is being litigated through the Court, the court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem or Parenting Coordinator.

A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is an individual who is appointed by the Court. His/her job is to determine what custodial and parenting time arrangement would be in your child’s best interest. How the GAL comes to this conclusion is through a thorough investigation of the facts being alleged. GAL’s have the ability to contact your children’s schools, come to your home, interview your children, your family members, school personnel, and any other individual that may help in the investigation. A GAL can also review relevant documents, email communications and other information that could help in his/her investigation. In the end a GAL will provide a detailed report to the Court on his/her recommendations with regard to your children.

A Parenting Coordinator is a neutral third party that usually comes into contact with you after a divorce has been finalized. Parenting Coordinators can be appointed by the Court but are usually assigned to a case upon agreement of the parties. A court order will be entered which specifies the powers of the parenting coordinator. Parenting coordinators are useful to parties who are unable to communicate effectively with one another with regard to day-to-day parenting issues. Each parent has direct access to the parenting coordinator and can call or email to get a timely response to a problem rather than having to wait for a hearing date. The use of a parenting coordinator can be a cost effective means of working through parenting problems with your ex-spouse rather than litigating the issue in the court system.

*Lindsay K. Nickolls of The Nickolls Law Firm LLC is a certified Guardian Ad Litem. She also works as a parenting coordinator in high conflict post-divorce cases.

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