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Role of a GAL investigator in Massachusetts child custody cases

Massachusetts divorce and child custody are complex issues. Family courts in Springfield may appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) investigator to investigate the matters involved in the legal custody of a child after a couple has filed for divorce. The GAL investigator is responsible for looking into the matters that involve the best interests of the child, including custody and visitation rights, parental or guardianship rights or anything that may impact the judgment by the court.

The GAL investigator gathers all factual information and sends it to the court. This information is helpful in making decisions regarding the welfare of the child, including custody and visitation rights. The GAL may also make recommendations in the report submitted to the court, if the court authorizes it. But, the GAL does not provide any legal analysis since that is for the court to decide. The GAL is also not authorized to make clinical assessments, and should only investigate those areas specified by the court. The court must authorize the investigator to broaden the scope of investigation, if it so desires.

After submitting the report to the court, the GAL should also be available for deposition in front of the court. The Gal should be impartial to both parties, and in case of any previous association with any of the parties, the GAL may decline investigating the case to avoid any conflict of interest. The GAL should practice nondiscrimination throughout the investigation. That is, the investigation should not be influenced by factors such as race, color, creed, gender, religion or any disability. In case a GAL is biased against any of these factors, a decline request should be presented to the court.

The GAL should practice neutrality and refrain from giving any legal advice to any of the parties. The GAL may also not act as a mediator between the parties, and should strictly adhere to the professional code of conduct. It is the responsibility of the GAL to ensure the safety of the parties and their children. Thus, the GAL may not disclose the contact details of any party if they have requested confidentiality. The GAL may conduct all meetings between parties only if it is safe to do so.

Source: Mass.gov, "Standards for Category F Guardian Ad Litem Investigators," accessed on April 4, 2015

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