Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in Divorce and Custody Matters
If you are getting a divorce in Georgia and custody of children is at issue, you know that things can get contentious along the way. To help smooth this path, sometimes, a court will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to your case, pursuant to the rules under Georgia Uniform Superior Court Rule 24.9.
At Buckhead Family Law, we often see divorcing couples get confused about what the role of this individual is and how they can be helpful when determining custody matters. So, let’s take a closer look at what a Guardian Ad Litem is and how they can specifically help in your situation.
What Is A Guardian ad Litem?
Simply put, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an attorney or other legal professional that assists a judge in a divorce in Georgia and other states, by investigating what custodial arrangement would be in the best interest of the child or children involved. The Guardian ad Litem is not the final decision maker in a custody matter, but rather is an investigative arm of the Court and makes a recommendation to the Court regarding custody and parenting time issues. The Court may or may not adopt the Guardian’s recommendation in whole or in part.
The GAL works to help parents come up with a parenting plan, aiding the court when it comes to looking into the living conditions, custody decisions, visitation rights, and other issues involved in each individual case.
The GAL will spend time getting to know the unique circumstances of the family better in order to make a recommendation as to the best interests of the minor child or children. This often occurs is matters when the children are too young to make an election regarding custody, however, it isn’t unheard of to have a GAL for older children in a divorce in Georgia if the court deems it necessary due to the complexity of the divorce or specific allegations of safety issues or harm to the child.
A Guardian Ad Litem is appointed when there is some sort of significant disagreement between parents as to who should be the primary caretaker for that child. These representatives are objective parties, and they do not fight for the interests of anyone other than the child. Guardians have very specific training and professional experience in these situations.
What Does A Guardian ad Litem Do?
A Guardian ad Litem will have the ability to request all records that the Clerk of the Court has available on the minor child, as well as any information from services such as the Juvenile Courts, Department of Family and Children Services, school records, hospital and medical records, and more. The Court Order appointing the GAL gives them broad range to access documents and information regarding both the parents and the minor children involved.
The Guardian ad Litem will also interview witnesses with personal knowledge of the family at issue.
It is important to be as open and honest as possible with the Guardian so they can come to the most beneficial conclusions regarding living arrangements and the child’s welfare. You also do not want the Guardian informing the Court that you were less than forthcoming or lacked credibility during their investigation.
GALs are required to build a report both on their findings and what they believe is best for the child. Parents are able to talk about the report and challenge it at trial if needed. However, in many cases the recommendation of the Guardian can aid the parties in reaching a settlement agreement regarding custody.
Getting A Divorce in Georgia? Contact Us Today
Getting through a divorce is difficult, and when custody of your children is at issue, it is even harder. It is quite common for a child (especially younger ones) to prefer one parent, but that parent isn’t always the better option to nurture the child, depending on the circumstances at hand. In some cases, it can even be dangerous or unhealthy for a child to live with their other parent. The Guardian ad Litem can include specific safety protocols as part of their recommendation. Having a Guardian ad Litem assigned to your case may be extremely beneficial to the ultimate outcome of your divorce litigation, depending on your situation.
At Buckhead Family Law, our experienced legal team is here to present you with your most beneficial custody agreement and legal options in order to help you to move on with your life quickly while still getting what you justly deserve. If you are just beginning your custody battle or you think you need some help, we are here for you. Schedule a consultation today by calling at 404-600-140