Title 19-A Child Protection Guardians ad Litem (GALs)

What is a Title 19-A Guardian ad Litem (GAL)?

If you are involved in an extremely difficult family law case, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for your child. Family law matters include divorces and what are called parental rights and responsibilities cases. A parental rights and responsibilities case is when unmarried parents, living apart, want a court-ordered plan on how to share custody of their child. A parental rights order is a court-ordered plan on how parents must share parental rights and responsibilities of their minor child.

In Title 19-A family law cases in district court:

  • A GAL is only appointed in special circumstances. The court will appoint a GAL in family law cases when the judicial officer has special concern for the welfare of the child.

  • The parties (usually the parents) are responsible for paying the cost of the GAL.

What are the Title 19-A Guardian ad Litem's (GAL's) responsibilities?

When a GAL is appointed in family law cases, the court will issue an order of appointment. An order of appointment outlines the responsibilities of the Title 19-A GAL pursuant to relevant sections of the law. See 4 M.R.S. § 1554 and 19-A M.R.S. § 1507(3), and M.R.G.A.L. 4(b) for the duties of the Title 19-A family law GAL.

When will a Title 19-A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) be appointed?

Criteria the court will consider when deciding to appoint a GAL in a contested family law case include the wishes of the parties, the age of the child, the nature of the proceeding (how contentious), the financial resources of the parties, the extent to which a GAL may assist in providing information, whether the family has experienced domestic violence, abuse of the child by one party, or other relevant factors. For more information on whether a GAL could be appointed in a family law case see 19-A M.R.S. § 1507(1).

How will a Title 19-A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) be paid?

The parties are responsible for paying the cost of a family law GAL. The appointment order spells out for the parties how the GAL's fee will be paid including, who is responsible for paying, how much is owed, and when the fee is due.