Wisconsin Guardian ad Litem Attorneys

Guardian ad Litems for Family Law, Divorce, Juvenile Law, & Adult Protection in Milwaukee and Waukesha

Serving the Best Interests of Children and Vulnerable Adults in Southeastern Wisconsin

Gamiño Law Offices certified guardian ad litems (GAL) in Wisconsin are attorneys, licensed to practice in the State of Wisconsin, who have completed specialized training related to the issue or area of law for which a guardian ad litem is needed. Courts use guardian ad litem attorneys in divorce, juvenile, or paternity cases where custody or placement is at issue. In juvenile court cases a guardian ad litem is involved where a child may be removed from a home due to abuse or neglect, or when the court is considering returning a child who had previously been removed from the home in CHIPS, JIPS or TPR cases. Guardian ad litems can also be appointed when a young child is accused of delinquency or before a court approves a settlement for a child in a civil case.  Finally, guardian ad litem attorneys can be appointed for vulnerable juveniles or adults facing guardianship proceedings or review of protective placement or services orders.
For a free initial consultation with dedicated attorneys doing their best to help with your Wisconsin divorce or family law concerns, contact a Gamiño Law Offices, LLC Milwaukee divorce lawyer and family law attorneys in Waukesha, WI. We have Wisconsin lawyers in Milwaukee and Waukesha available to help with any of your other legal needs.
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1. What is a guardian ad litem?
A GAL is an attorney, licensed to practice law in Wisconsin. The GAL's role is to represent the best interests of the children as determined by the GAL through an investigation. The GAL will investigate the facts, participate in negotiations, and take a position in court on legal custody and placement. The GAL is also involved in the financial issues of a case when those issues affect the children, such as
child support and child expenses. The GAL does not have any of the rights or duties of a parent or general guardian. Although the GAL may be incorrectly referred to as the children's attorney, the GAL's role is to advocate for the best interests of the children. This may not be the same as advocating for what the children want.

2. What determines whether a GAL becomes involved in a case?
Some cases require that a guardian ad litem be involved, such as review of protective placement and services in guardianship matters, young juveniles in delinquency matters, and CHIPS or TPR cases. Guardian ad litem attorneys may become involved in civil cases that involve a monetary award to a juvenile or family court cases. When parents cannot agree on custody or placement, the court must appoint a GAL. The parents must first try mediation to reach an agreement, unless the court waives that requirement. If no agreement reached, the court will appoint a GAL to assist the court in deciding custody or placement. The court also will appoint a GAL if the court has special concern for the welfare of a minor child. The court can appoint a GAL any time in the proceeding when the best interests of the children are at issue. The exception is in a modification proceeding if the proposed modification would not substantially alter the placement times.  In that situation, the court may find that a GAL would not assist it in making its orders.

3.  How is a GAL appointed?
A GAL is appointed by a family court commissioner or judge, usually upon request of one of the parents. The procedure varies - some counties have lists of attorneys who take GAL appointments, other counties have contracts with specific attorneys for GAL appointments. In rarer cases, such as monetary awards to juveniles in a civil case, the parties may be allowed to seek out and request the appointment of a particular guardian ad litem.

4. What is the GAL's role?
In representing the best interests of the children, the GAL may negotiate settlements, conduct formal and informal discovery, hire experts, interview witnesses, investigate whether there has been violence or abuse between parents, comment on proposed parenting plans or any stipulation or mediation agreement reached by the parties and participate in all court proceedings. Either party may request a status hearing before the court on the actions taken and work performed by the GAL any time after 120
days from the GAL's appointment.
Quick Guide to Guardian ad Litems in Wisconsin

5. Will the GAL meet with my child and me?
The GAL will meet with both parents, usually separately and in the GAL's office. The GAL will generally meet with your child. The GAL will decide when and where to meet with your child, which could be in the GAL's office, each parent's home, or another location.

6. How does the GAL investigate issues that affect my child?
Because the GAL is an attorney, the GAL investigates facts that are relevant to the issues in your case. Much of the investigation is called informal discovery, which is conducted through interviews with each parent, the child, or other people with significant information. You may also be asked to sign a release authorizing the GAL to review relevant records, such as school, medical, or mental health records. The GAL may ask other experts, such as a social worker or a psychologist, to provide input and possible future testimony regarding the case. If there are problems with alcohol or drugs, the GAL may ask a parent to participate in screening tests or ask the judge to order such tests. The GAL also may use formal discovery to assist in the investigation, including interrogatories, requests for document production, or conducting depositions.

7. What factors does the GAL consider in the investigation?
In investigating and developing input for the court's consideration, the GAL must consider the following legal factors:
  • the wishes of your child and both parents;
  • whether a parent has engaged in a pattern or serious incident of violence between parents;
  • the safety and well-being of the child and the safety of the parent who was the victim of the battery or abuse;
  • your child's interaction and relationship with you and other family members;
  • the amount and quality of time you have spent with your child in the past;
  • any necessary and reasonable custodial and life-style changes you propose to make to spend time with your child in the future;
  • your child's adjustment to home, school, religion, and community;
  • your child's age and developmental and educational needs at various ages;
  • the mental or physical health of a parent, the child, or other person living in the proposed custodial household;
  • the need for regularly occurring and meaningful placement to provide predictability and stability for your child;
  • availability of child care services;
  • the cooperation and communication between parents and whether either one unreasonably refuses to cooperate or communicate with the other;
  • each parent's ability to support the other parent's relationship with the child and the likelihood a parent will interfere in the other parent's continuing relationship with the child;
  • any physical abuse or problems with alcohol or drugs; the reports of appropriate professionals; and
  • other significant factors that would affect your child's well-being.

8.What happens when the GAL completes the investigation?
The GAL generally will give the parents and/or attorneys a preliminary summary of what the GAL will present to the judge. The input could change depending on additional evidence or facts that are uncovered. Generally, the parents' attorneys will discuss the GAL's preliminary recommendations with their clients. Most often, settlement proposals are exchanged, and the case is resolved by agreement. If the parents cannot agree, the case is prepared
for trial before the judge, who will consider the evidence presented and make the final decision.

9.Who pays for the GAL?
The judge decides who pays for the GAL's services. The requirements vary from county to county. Generally, each parent is responsible for one-half of the GAL's total costs, including the GAL's legal fees and investigation costs, such as tests and experts. The court also may require the parents to pay an initial deposit and periodic payments to the GAL during the case. If the judge decides that both parents are unable to pay for the GAL's services immediately, the judge may have the county pay the GAL bill. However, the parents still are responsible for the GAL fees and the county may require the parents to reimburse the county.

10. Can I change GALs?
There are very limited circumstances in which a new GAL would be assigned to your case. Disagreement with the GAL's recommendations is not a valid reason to request removal. Only the judge can remove a GAL.

11. How long will the GAL be involved in my case?
By statute, the GAL serves in a case until either the parents reach a written agreement resolving the issues and the judge approves it, or there is a hearing and the judge decides the case. The judge can discharge the GAL if one is no longer necessary. If your case is appealed, the GAL is involved in the appeal process unless the court orders otherwise. If a new motion is filed in your case in the future, the judge may reappoint the same or a different GAL.
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