What to Expect

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed by the Court as a neutral third party whose duty is to represent the best interests of the minor child to the Family Court. SC Code § 63-3-830 (2012) lays the groundwork for a GAL’s responsibilities.  It’s normal to be nervous, but the more relaxed you are, the more your child is likely to be at ease. Here are a few things you can do that can help you feel more in control and improve efficiency on my end:


Be proactive

The old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is a reflection of human nature. Go ahead and call (or return a call) to schedule an appointment to meet one on one, without your child(ren) present. Be prepared by gathering report cards, school and medical records, letters from friends and family, and printing out photos of text messages or Facebook posts for me. I understand that childcare and work schedules can make it difficult to travel, so when possible, I am very flexible and can talk over videoconference or meet closer to your location so that we can talk without your children around. On that note. . .


Inform children, but don’t involve them

I will be meeting with your child in their home environment(s) and maybe at daycare/school. Depending on the child’s age and ability to comprehend, they need to know that I am “a family friend” and will be visiting with them, asking some questions, and that they should be honest. Children should never feel like they are caught in the middle. Don’t coach them on what to say or question your child after a GAL visit about the conversation. Don’t hover nearby when I am meeting with your child (in the next room, hallway, etc.). If I have concerns about this behavior or security cameras being present, this will be addressed with the attorneys and possibly with the court. 

Most children are excited to show me their favorite toys, pets, and special interests. I will likely be meeting with the child alone, depending on their age and ability to have a conversation. Don’t worry, I carry activity pages, tablet apps, and art supplies, and am experienced in conversational interviews. 

A note on home visits: We all live in our homes and some clutter, laundry, and other signs of life are expected. 


Be honest 

No one is perfect, and it’s better to address flaws or accusations than to lie or pretend they don’t exist. Documentation can be helpful in supporting the progress you have made with seeking help for substance misuse, mental health problems, DSS/criminal justice interactions, physical limitations, or a history of not meeting your child’s needs (medical, educational, physical, safety, emotional, etc.). Willingness to seek help for yourself or your child, along with demonstrated action taken to follow through is a protective parenting skill. 

Never make false accusations of the other party, and back up legitimate claims with evidence. Above all, don’t encourage or instruct your child to lie. 


Follow up periodically and remain current

Email about any relevant updates you have. Most emails will likely prompt me to call to discuss. If there is an emergency that affects or involves your child, do both. If you have an attorney, please cc them on correspondence so everyone has the same information. Read your copy of the GAL Order thoroughly and abide by it.