Who Pays for a Guardian ad Litem?
If you are—or expect soon to be—in the midst of a complicated child-related legal dispute, there is a very strong possibility that the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to assist in the case. A guardian ad litem, or GAL, works essentially as an extension of the court in matters relating to allocating parental responsibilities—formerly child custody—adoption, guardianship, parental relocations, and any other proceeding that is expected to impact or protect a child’s best interests. While it may be useful to have a trained, objective attorney helping the court make a decision in your case, you should be aware that the services of a GAL are not usually free, and the court itself will probably not be picking up the tab.
Filing of Fees to the Court
Within 90 days of being appointed, the GAL must present a detailed invoice to the court and both parties for services rendered. These services include the GAL’s assigned duties to investigate the circumstances of the family’s situation, to interview appropriate parties, and to prepare a recommendation. If the GAL has been required to testify in court, he or she may include this time in the invoice as well, along with any other reasonable expenses incurred. Should the GAL’s services be required beyond those contained in the original invoice, he or she must file a new invoice every subsequent 90 days.
Once the court confirms that the services included on the GAL’s invoice are reasonable and necessary, an order will be issued requiring the GAL to be paid. The court can order payment from one or both parents, the marital estate in the proceedings related to divorce, the child’s resources in certain situations, or any other party or source found to be appropriate. If the matter at hand involves child support enforcement efforts by Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the agency cannot be ordered to share responsibility for paying the GAL.
If you, as a parent, are ordered to pay for the services of the GAL, you will probably be responsible for about half, with the other parent responsible for the other half. Based on your financial circumstances and other considerations, the split may not be exactly even. In the most extreme cases, one parent can be held solely responsible for payment. An order for paying the GAL is enforceable by law and failure to comply could result in sanctions and penalties imposed by the court.
Get Additional Answers
Having served as a court-appointed guardian ad litem, Attorney Doug Warlick understands how the process works and is ready to help you with your most sensitive legal concerns. Contact an experienced Geneva family law attorney today to schedule a confidential consultation. Call 630-232-9700 and let us show you what our firm can do for your family.