|Office Of Cost Containment
Ad Litem Section:
In child custody cases, whether
the parents of the child or children were married or
not, and where the parties have not already agreed
on custody and support matters, the court will appoint
a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to recommend to the court
what would be in the best interests of the child or
NH has established a Guardian Ad Litem fund
to pay for the services of GALs in child custody cases where either
or both of the parents are presently unable to pay for the services
of the GAL directly. The statute sets the costs of GAL services
as a liability of the parents.
Under the statute and the court orders for
a GAL, the court determines the proportionate share of the liability,
but OCC is in charge of making determinations of ability to repay
the State when the GAL fund has paid for or guaranteed the GAL's
bill. These determinations are made individually as each case is
The answers to the following
frequently asked questions may help in understanding the repayment
Q. I never asked for a GAL, and didn't
contract for one, so why should I pay for services I never wanted
in the first place?
A. The GAL does not contract with the parents.
The GAL is appointed by the court to represent the "best interests" of
each minor child. State law makes
parents responsible for the "necessaries" of their children and the
representation of the minor's interests when he or she can not be represented
otherwise are considered necessary.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. Unlike indigent defense in criminal matters,
the total cost of GAL services is a function of the complexity of
the custody issues in each case. However, the court rules and the
specific orders of appointment limits the GAL fee to $1000 unless
a motion to exceed that limit is filed by the GAL and approved by
the court. In complex cases, the GAL may file such a motion, so
it is important that the parties be aware of
Q. Do both parents always owe the same
A. Not always. Sometimes the court orders
one parent to pay a larger share than the other. Also, the court
sometimes requires one parent to pay the GAL directly while the
other parent's share is paid from the fund. In most cases, the repayment
liability is equal.
Q. My divorce or custody case isn't final
yet. Why do I have to start payments?
A.We set up an account for your share of the
$1000 limit and expect you to start making payments during the time
that the GAL is completing the investigation for the court. Except
in rare cases, the GAL fees exceed the payments you make. By making
periodic payments you won't be faced with a sudden big bill when
the case is complete.
In most cases, court rules prohibit the GAL
from submitting an interim bill, but you do have a right to ask
the GAL how many hours have been spent on your case.
Q. If my share of the final bill is less
than $500 and I have already paid that, do I get a
A. It is very unusual for any party to pay
the full initial share before the case is
complete, but yes you would be entitled to a refund of payments
that exceed your share of the actual bill.
Q. If the other parent doesn't pay, does
that mean that I have to pay his or her share?
A. No. The court determines the proportional
share and unless there are motions and hearings to change the share
you must pay it will not change.
Q. If I get a letter asking me to pay
or set up a repayment plan, and I am sure that I can't, what should
A. Get in touch with the OCC - GAL section
immediately. The program assistants and case technicians are very
experienced working with people with genuine financial problems
and can usually work out a repayment plan with you. However, if
you ignore the letters or the original court orders, OCC will ask
the court to require you to show cause why you should not be held
in contempt and potentially incarcerated.
Q. If I believe that I can't make repayments
and OCC thinks I can based on the facts that it
has reviewed, can I appeal the decision?"
A. Yes. But you should remember that the burden
of proof is on you to show why the determinations of OCC should
Q. If I want to read the law for myself,
where can I find it?
A. The Laws called NH Revised Statutes can
be found in the reference room of most libraries. They
also may be found
on the State of NH Home page under NH
Click the buttons for the specific laws applying to GAL cases.
461-A:18 Parental rights and responsibilities.
464-A:41 The law establishing GAL liability in all other child custody
Q. Is the material
I give to OCC, or OCC finds out about me considered private?
Absolutely! While court records are considered
public documents, we, at OCC know we are dealing with
lot of information which could never be called "public." We
adhere to the State
Q. How can I contact OCC?
You may write:OCC-GAL, 25 Capitol Street, Concord
Or, you can telephone (603) 271-1416.
We also have a walk-up window
25 Capitol Street, Room 400(4th floor)
The window is open M-F from 8 AM to 4 PM.
Cost the Office of Containment.
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