Regular readers of our Ann Arbor legal blog know that our previous post dove into the legal complexities of parental alienation in divorce. In the Michigan Family Law Journal, attorney Ashish Joshi wrote that parental alienation cases involve “an unjustified campaign of denigration against a parent, often referred to as the ‘target parent.'”
Courts have increasingly appointing a GAL (guardian ad litem) or LGAL (lawyer-guardian ad litem) in these matters. GALs help the court understand the child’s best interests and LGALs are appointed to “determine and then advocate for the child’s best interests.”
Joshi writes that Michigan “law obligates the LGAL to serve as an independent representative of the child’s best interests, to conduct an independent investigation, to determine the child’s best interests and thereafter to advocate for those best interests.”
An LGAL is conduct that independent investigation (as is the GAL), but the LGAL owes his or her duty to the child, not the court. The LGAL has an attorney-client relationship with the child. In contrast, the GAL’s duty is to the court and the GAL doesn’t have an attorney-client relationship with the child.
However, Joshi points out that the LGAL is not filling a traditional attorney role, but is instead “an independent representative of the child’s best interests.”
Because parental alienation “results in brainwashing the children,” it can be difficult to determine the child’s best interests. The child is often not a reliable source of information about what is in her or his best interests. Joshi notes that a GAL or LGAL must always try to understand whether a child’s stated preferences are “a result of brainwashing or programming by the alienating parent.”
Please read the entirety of attorney Joshi’s article to get a fuller understanding of the complexities and nuances of parental alienation’s intersection with the law.