A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is generally appointed by the Court after mediation is unsuccessful or when custody/placement is highly contentious. The GAL is an attorney appointed to represent the best interest of the child(ren), as opposed to the child(ren) themselves. Although the wishes of the child(ren) are taken into consideration, the children cannot dictate what the GAL recommends to the Court. The GAL must evaluate the entire circumstances in determining what they believe is in the best interest of the children. As part of their investigation, the GAL normally meets with each parent, and depending on the age of the children, each of the children as well. It is not required that they go to each of the parent’s homes, and often home visits are not done unless the conditions of the home are at issue. Often times GAL’s are attorneys in private practice, and therefore their fees are comparable to the hourly rates of other family law practitioners. In some counties, Guardian ad Litem’s are on contract with the county and charge a lesser hourly rate. Often times, the fees are shared equally between the parties, and a modest retainer must be paid by each party for the GAL’s services. Depending on one’s income / financial resources, it is possible that they will qualify for the county rate and/or a lesser retainer will be required. If the custody/placement issues exist in large part due to egregious behavior of the other party, it is possible that the other party will be responsible for the majority if not all of the GAL fees.
The GAL’s recommendation to the Court regarding custody/placement is taken into serious consideration by the Court because the GAL has had the opportunity to spend significant time investigating the matter and hearing the positions of both parties. Therefore, the Court often times adopts the recommendations of the GAL as the decision of the Court. Nonetheless, the GAL is not a substitute for the judge (or court commissioner) and the Judge can choose to deviate from the recommendation in full or in part. However, because the GAL recommendation usually is adopted by the Court, many parties reach settlement based upon the terms of the recommendation.
Some counties place the attorneys qualified to do GAL work on a rotation and cases are assigned based upon the rotation. In other counties, the attorneys for the parties reach an agreement on the identity of the GAL. Because of the important role they have in a case, if it is expected that a GAL will be needed, you should talk to your attorney about this in advance.
Attorney Renee A. Read
Remley & Sensenbrenner, S.C.
219 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Neenah, WI 54914
Attorney Read practices primarily in the Fox Cities of Wisconsin, but the information in this blog is generally applicable for the entire state of Wisconsin.
Disclaimer: The content on this site is intended to provide general information regarding the subject matters covered. The provision of this information is not intended by the author as legal advice. If you need or desire legal advice, you should consult an attorney for advice specific to your situation. Further, laws change over time so the information should be verified before relying on it.