A divorce can be a frustrating and traumatizing experience for anyone involved, but this is especially true when it comes to the effect it has on children. Most parents will go out of their way to ensure no harm comes to their children during a child custody case, but if a judge is worried that the parents are not representing the child’s best interests, the judge may appoint what is called a guardian ad litem to the case.
Parties in the case may also agree to appoint a guardian ad litem for the duration of the case.
What is a guardian ad litem?
A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an individual, sometimes an attorney or mental health professional, who acts as the child’s voice throughout the child custody or child custody modification process. This ensures that the court is able to act in the child’s best interests. The guardian will then give her recommendation on what actions the court should take to uphold the best interests of the child.
If the GAL is not an attorney, she must be a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). CASA training meets the requirements to be a GAL. She must also receive special training administered by the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children.
What does a guardian ad litem do?
To ensure the court acts in the best interests of the child, guardians ad litem must investigate all aspects of the case to determine the best custody choice for the child.
To represent the best interests of the child, the GAL may:
- Interview the child and any other involved parties (e.g., parents, family members, teachers, religious leaders, coaches, etc.)
- Request the child’s medical and educational records
- Request the child or parents undergo psychological testing
- Visit the child’s home
- Investigate relationships
After the GAL has conducted her investigation, she will draft a report with her recommendations. While the GAL will consider the child’s wishes, she will always act in the child’s best interests (e.g., if the child wants to live with one parent, but the GAL finds that parent has a substance abuse problem, she will go against the child’s wishes).
If the parents disagree with the GAL’s recommendation, they can each present witnesses and/or evidence as to why they disagree, but the judge has the final say.
Why is a guardian ad litem important to my Georgia child custody case?
Because Georgia courts take the recommendations of guardians ad litem very seriously, your entire case could rest on the GAL’s opinion of you. If the GAL believes you are an unfit parent, she may recommend that the judge award custody to your spouse and possibly even limit visitation.
To ensure that you protect your rights and your child’s best interests, enlist the help of a Gwinnett County child custody attorney. David Ward will represent you throughout your case and make sure the guardian is representing your child’s best interests.
Contact the Ward Law Firm to schedule your REAL Case Analysis today: 770-383-1973.