Why the Court Can Assign a Guardian Ad Litem in Custody Cases

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Talking about break-ups can be tough, especially for children. Many parents stay together for the kids, but this is not always the case. And when parents separate, they do not always agree about custody.

It can be emotionally devastating for children to witness their parents separate. However, they will end up staying with just one parent. Some children prefer staying with either mom or dad. Yet, some kids do not want to see the other parent at all. Should a child’s preference on who takes custody of them be considered?

Divorce Agreements: Guardian Ad Litem

In many divorce cases, parents agree on a setup without asking the help of the judge. Yet, there are cases where the judge decides on behalf of the family. With the help of an official called the “guardian ad litem,” the court will investigate the child’s situation.

The “guardian ad litem” is not the divorce attorney or anyone from the immediate family. They play an important part in divorce proceedings as they represent children under 18 in court.

Because individuals under 18 do not have the capacity to appear in court on their own, the guardian ad litem works as the child’s eyes and ears of the court. Because the judge cannot do it personally, this professional has the capacity to advocate for the child’s behalf.

Guardian Ad Litem and Their Duties

The guardian ad litem is only responsible for helping the child in the divorce case. They may represent the child in court hearings, coordinating with the judge for reports about their findings at home. However, they do not have the legal power to manage the child’s personal affairs.

The court assigns a guardian ad litem when there are disputes over visitation, living arrangements, major custody, and other issues involving the children of divorcing parents. The topic is opened to the court upon a motion by a parent, a relative or legal guardian, and the judge or the court itself.

Most guardians ad litem also have legal training but are not directly working on the case as representatives of either parent. Because they know the law, they are often asked by judges for recommendations on what they think would be the best for the child.

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Guardians ad litem are official liaisons, so they can pay surprise visits and be in events that are part of the child’s routine. They can also communicate with relatives, school officials, and other people who have a relationship with the child. The point of their services is to understand the routine, arrangements, and relationships of the child.

The court listens to the reports and recommendations of the guardian ad litem. The last thing you should do is bribe them or try to get close to them to win their approval. If you are not sure what to do when a legal liaison is assigned to your case, here are tips on how you can go about the case:

  • While the guardian ad litem can be a lawyer, they are not your child’s lawyer. They work as an adult mouthpiece of your child. You may want to hire a separate lawyer to represent your child, but the guardian ad litem stays in the case.
  • The guardian ad litem has the ability to investigate different aspects of your child’s routine and everyday life. They may interview you at some point.
  • As they have your child’s best interest at heart, they can seem probing when asking things about your child. However, since the guardian ad litem is not someone close to your family, they are not biased.
  • Your marital assets will be used to pay for the guardian ad litem. With this, you and your spouse will have to be transparent with the court about your assets. Before the court assigns a guardian ad litem, they will check your resources to see if you can pay. Some courts offer pro-bono guardian ad litem services to help families with financial difficulties going through a divorce.

It is important to understand that while the court may listen to the child’s preference, the investigation is always fact-driven. Particular circumstances of the family’s setup will be brought to light by the guardian ad litem. Most courts do not outrightly consider the wishes of the child for particular reasons. However, they may still listen to the testimonies of witnesses. These may include counselors, psychiatrists, teachers, and social workers. The judge values the findings of the guardian ad litem, but their recommendations are not the final verdict of the custody case.

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