Colosimo, Ewing and Smith, LLC can be appointed as the Guardian ad litem either by the agreement of the attorneys in your case or by an order of the court; you cannot directly retain CES Law a Guardian ad litem. If you are reading this, it is very likely that this office has been appointed as the Guardian ad litem in your case.

Attorney Carlo D. Colosimo is a court approved Guardian at litem. As the father of three boys, Mr. Colosimo understands the importance of maintaining a strong and loving relationship with your children. In a divorce situation the children must reside somewhere, and since the parents will no longer live together, a very important decision needs to be made.  The issue of the best interest of the children will initially fall on the shoulders of the GAL and ultimately the decision will be made by the court.

If Colosimo, Ewing and Smith, LLC has been appointed as the Guardian ad litem in your case we are glad that you are researching our background and gathering more information.  We encourage you to take an interest in learning as much about the Guardian ad litem process as possible and have outlined some further details below:

What is a Guardian ad litem?

A Guardian ad litem is an attorney whose directive is to advocate for the best interests of the child. A GAL is not bound by the child’s wishes, as would be an attorney for the child (assuming a competent child). A GAL is not an attorney for either party and may not advocate on behalf of either parent. The GAL’s sole purpose is to advocate for the best interest of the child. It has been said that the GAL is the eyes and ears of the court. A GAL investigates and makes recommendations to the court. What specific issues are to be investigated and recommended are to be determined by the court order appointing the GAL. GALs have subpoena power and may take depositions and propound interrogatories as part of discovery process. They may call witnesses to the stand at trial and may cross examine all witnesses. They may submit evidence and briefs to the court. Because they are required to make recommendations, GALs themselves can be called to the witness stand and cross examined. The GAL serves as a sort of expert for the court.

Some judges assign a GAL to nearly every case; others only do so at the request of one of the parties to the case. Many judges have a long-standing relationship with specific GALs and trust their judgment.

Should you request a Guardian ad litem?

Many clients requesting a GAL mistakenly believe that they will be getting a second, more powerful lawyer. Clients commonly see the GAL as an additional advocate for them because, like the GAL, clients believe that the children are the sole interest in the case. This is not necessarily true, considering that both sides to a case will say they are only interested in the best interest of the child.

Payment of Guardian ad litem

A Guardian ad litem is not free.  Unless the court appoints a Guardian Ad Litem on a “Pro Bono” basis, someone will have to pay the Guardian ad litem for their services.  Depending on the complexity of the case the Guardian ad litem fees can quickly escalate.  The Guardian ad litem does not decide who pays for the GAL that decision is made by the court.  Often the parties are ordered to split the cost evenly; however, there are many occasions where the costs are split disproportionally or one party is ordered to pay the entire amount.  These issues should be discussed with your attorney.

Every Guardian ad litem is required to take one “Pro Bono” or free case per year.  Colosimo, Ewing and Smith, LLC proudly serves our community and we take well in excess of the minimum requirement per year, as well as taking on many Pro Bono cases on behalf of C.A.S.A. (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

What happens once a GAL is appointed?

Once you are appointed a GAL, it is in your best interest to work well with the GAL.  Your attorney should send the GAL a copy of the order appointing him and ask if he needs a copy of the file.  Make sure the GAL knows when the next court date is and any burning issues in the case.  Your attorney’s first contact with the GAL might be a great first opportunity to set the tone of the case and start to plead your side.

Communicating with the Guardian ad litem

You should discuss any contact with the GAL with your attorney prior to it. All communications with the GAL are not privileged and anything you say to the GAL can be used in court or for any other purpose.

Attorney Colosimo is always available to speak to either party in a GAL case.  We are willing to take in and review all information provided by the parties.  We take the best interest of minor children very seriously and will conduct a thorough investigation on all cases.

This is a business relationship. As soon as the GAL is appointed, copy and organize all relevant documents for that person. You may want to provide a list of names, telephone numbers (home and work), and addresses of people that to contact. Each name should be followed by a brief summary of what this person knows.  The GAL might or might not contact everyone on your list; however, if you are able to easily provide me a list of relevant contacts like teachers, therapists and doctors, it will make the job much easier and will allow the GAL to learn more things about you.

Character references are rarely helpful.  We are looking for unbiased people who have knowledge of the parties and the children; not your mother or sibling who will say great things about you no matter what.

When communicating and answering questions, please bear in mind the GAL wants to hear why you are the right parent, versus why the other party is the wrong parent.  Although both are important, focus on you.

Do Not Expect the GAL to be concerned with any misconduct before the children were born. The court is focused on standards like “willing and able,” “change in circumstances,” and “best interest.” Focusing on the parent’s wrongdoings from years ago is only helpful if the parent is continuing to exhibit those behaviors in the present.

Respond to the GAL’s Requests

Pay attention to what the GAL focuses on and what they ask of you. You should follow the direction of the GAL. When gathering information, if the GAL asks for something there is a reason for doing so; it is best to respect that.  If you have any questions or concerns you should discuss those with your attorney.  Remember that the GAL is not your attorney and will not give you any legal advice.

Your Expectations of the Guardian ad litem?

To avoid disappointment, you and your attorney must have realistic expectations. The G.A.L. operates within a framework established by the judge. The G.A.L. is not the judge in your case.  Generally, G.A.L.s handle many cases each year and know which issues the judge is focused on and which ones are of less concern. They will look for specific issues they know to be important, and will not be as concerned with other issues.

What If You Dislike the GAL?

Unless you have a very good reason, such as the GAL has previously represented one of the parties in another case, it is best not to argue against appointment of a specific GAL.  It is best for the attorneys to agree on a GAL.  If they cannot, the court will pick the GAL and the parties will be forced to remain with that GAL.

While Mr. Colosimo begins each case with no bias, but at some point he must form opinions based upon what he perceives to be the facts. Those opinions may include some harsh assessments of you or other party.  It is common for a GAL to be accused as being biased, but in reality, the GAL must make a recommendation in the best interest of the child or children.  Once the recommendation is made, someone will likely be upset.  Please know that our recommendations are ALWAYS based on the best interest of the children.  At times, these recommendations may upset both parents.  Once again, the primary concern is the best interest of the children, not the hurt feelings of the involved parties.

Don’t Tell the GAL How to Do Their Job

Neither you nor your attorney should presume to tell the GAL what his job is or how to do it. GALs give each case an enormous amount of work and thought.  It is okay to question or politely challenge; the GAL can and should be able to justify any actions and recommendation.

Follow the GALs Directions

This is not hard to do, but far too many parties and attorneys don’t bother. If the GAL tells you to call him after a weekend visit to let him know how it went, make sure you do it.  If the GAL asks for documents, make sure you get them to the GAL  If the GAL asks your attorney to call him to discuss their view of the case, make sure the attorney calls the GAL Remember, this is all for the benefit of the child or children.

Announced/Unannounced Visits

A GAL may conduct announced and unannounced visits to your home or other locations.  A GAL is not a peace officer and cannot secure any warrant to enter onto your property.  Your level of cooperation and willingness to work with a GAL in this case are all taken into consideration when making a final recommendation; not allowing a visit could ultimately have an effect on that.

Respect the GAL’s Recommendations to the Judge

GAL recommendations will be reported to the court either in oral form, written form or both.  The type of recommendation is ordered by the court not by the GAL. When you first hear the oral report or read a written report you will need time to digest the entire report. Once they report is submitted, the GAL investigation ends; unless the court elects to a follow up on a certain issue or question.  You should discuss any concerns with your attorney and not contact a GAL directly once the report has been submitted, unless instructed to do so by your attorney or the court.

We understand that upon submitting our report, one or both of the parties might not agree with part or all of the recommendations.  We make recommendations based on the information provided and in the best interest of the children. The GAL is always placed in a position that someone will eventually be upset with the recommendation.  We accept this as part of the appointment and process.

The judge will often follow the GALs recommendation; however the final decision is always left to the court.  If you are unsatisfied with a recommendation, discuss your options with your attorney.

Colosimo, Ewing and Smith, LLC wishes you and the opposing party all the best.  At the conclusion of the case, and regardless of our recommendation, you and the opposing party are still the parents of these children.  You will need to work together for their best interest.  The greatest gift you can give your children is to get along with their other parent.  Children will remember this and cherish their memories with each parent.