PA GAL Revisions
There are times during a contentious custody case that the court, on its own or as a result of a motion by the mother or father, may appoint a guardian ad litem. The role of the GAL is to represent the best interests of the child or children, though they are not to act as the child’s attorney or represent the child’s legal interests.
Courts give great deference to the opinions presented by GAL’s. Unfortunately, as the Dads’ Resource Center highlighted in its 2021 report, there is virtually no oversight of their involvement, no required ongoing training nor reporting on the actual work of the guardians overall or in individual cases. Many of the fathers who have reached out to the DRC have replayed an imbalance in the time and consideration the assigned GAL provides to them versus the mother, with the information they provide to the courts reflecting this bias.
Adding to the possible injustice of these situations up until 2016 GALs could not be cross examined by either parent to explain the positions they presented to the court. As a result Dads’ Resource Center Founder and Chair Dr. Joel N. Myers worked with Senator Jake Corman (Centre County) to pass statutory changes to 231 PA Code Rule 1915 11-2 that make a clear distinction between counsel for a child, who acts like any other attorney for a client with privilege and requirement to follow the client’s instructions and a guardian ad litem who, if they are going to express an opinion as to a child’s best interest, will be subject to cross examination like any other witness.
This is important information for parents to know. Either to make sure your attorney is providing you with the best service possible or if you are representing yourself. Click Here to learn more about the code and other related documents.