What is a Guardian ad Litem?

gal-imageA Guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person a court of law appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the best interests of a child. This article discusses the Guardian ad Litem in a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case.

The Guardian ad Litem will look into the family situation and advise the court about issues such as:

• Where the children should live most of the time
• What contact the child should have with the other parent
• Whether the child is being harmed by one parent’s alleged substance abuse

In a court of law, Guardian ad Litem literally means, “guardian for the suit.” In the state of Georgia, a guardian ad litem is an attorney or non-attorney appointed by a judge that will assist the Court in determining the circumstances of the situation. A guardian is empowered by the court to investigate all relevant matters, such as living conditions and family relationships, in order to make a recommendation to the court as to what would be in the best interests of the child. These decisions would concern placement, visitation, and other matters ruled upon by the court.

Do I Really Need a Guardian ad Litem?
If you and your spouse have already come to an agreement regarding custody and visitation a Guardian ad Litem would not be recommended. A Guardian ad Litem is not recommended for spouses with only minor disagreements regarding custody and visitation.

What to expect from the Guardian ad Litem?
The parties in a divorce are often battling for custody and can be wrapped up in his or her case along with their respective grounds for claiming custody. Having a Guardian ad Litem will help ensure that a non-biased party provides assessments that will lead to what is best for the children.

You can expect the Guardian ad Litem to conduct a thorough investigation into the life of the children.

Such investigation could include:
• Home visits
• Interviews with the children
• Parental interviews without an attorney
• Consultation with the parent’s attorney
• Interviews of character witnesses, care providers, teachers, etc.
• A review of medical and school records

The Guardian ad Litem process can be difficult and tiring. They are appointed broad powers in gaining access to relevant information to the children, which can feel intrusive.

It is in the best interest of all parties that parents work with the Guardian Ad Litem to provide honest and accurate information. Records and access to needed materials will help them make an appropriate and responsible recommendation.

Based upon their findings, the guardian will usually make a report to the court recommending a specific outcome. The GAL can also present the report to the parties before a trial. A properly presented report can lead to settlement of the issues without the necessity and expense of a trial.

Note that the parties do not have to accept the guardian’s report. If this is the case, they can present their own witnesses and evidence in court.

The Judge will make the final determination on the children’s arrangements.

How much does a Guardian Ad Litem cost?
A guardian does charge for their services. Most guardians have a standard hourly rate for work performed as a Guardian Ad Litem. They typically require a retainer fee up front. Their fees should be clearly defined and discussed between both parties.

Who pays for the Guardian Ad Litem?
Once fees for the GAL are understood the parties should agree who will pay for the Guardian Ad Litem. One party may choose to do so in full or the parties will decide how the fees will be split. If the parties cannot agree the judge will decide how much each parent will pay the Guardian Ad Litem. The Guardian Ad Litem can be paid at their appointment or at the conclusion of the case.

Charlton & Glover Are Here To Help
You need a knowledgeable attorney who understands the nuances of custody matters in the state of Georgia. If you live in the Roswell or Alpharetta area, the experienced divorce and child custody attorneys at Charlton & Glover are ready to help you. Call us at (770) 993-1005 to schedule a free initial consultation.

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