When you are considering divorce, your child’s well-being is a priority. Legal custody, physical placement and child support issues must be decided. Sometimes, however, divorcing parents cannot agree what is in the best interests of their children. They cannot see eye to eye on who will make major decisions for the child, the amount of time the child will reside with each parent, or how the child’s financial needs will be met. Sometimes a parent fears for the safety or well-being of their children while under the supervision of the other parent.
When parents cannot agree, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) or child representative to assist the judge in making custody, placement and support decisions. A guardian ad litem is an attorney licensed to practice law who will gather facts about the case in order to advise the judge regarding the best interests of the children. The GAL is not considered a guardian of the children and does not serve as a child’s attorney.
In order to advise the court, the GAL will gather relevant facts pertaining to the case. This may include informal or formal discovery. Informal discovery is typically a process of interviews conducted with parents, children or individuals who can provide relevant information. The parents may be asked to sign a release so that the GAL can review school, medical or mental health records pertinent to the investigation. Formal discovery may include deposition, requests for document production and interogatories.
The GAL may seek the input of experts in the fields of social work or psychology, and these professionals can be asked to provide testimony regarding the case. If substance abuse has been reported, a GAL may request court-ordered drug and alcohol screening for parents.
The GAL’s responsibility is to advise the court on what is in the best interest of children caught-up in a divorce. They must consider among other issues: the wishes of the parties involved, whether there are problems of domestic or substance abuse, the specific details regarding the relationship the child has with members of the family, and the impact any proposed living situation will have on the child’s adjustment and general well-being.
If you are considering divorce and have concerns regarding child custody or support, contact the family law offices of Schlesinger & Strauss, LLC. for help. Attorneys Gary L. Schlesinger and Michael Strauss both accept court appointments as a child’s representative and are well-versed on all aspects of child custody and support matters. Attorney Michael Strauss has served as a divorce mediator and as a Guardian Ad Litem and possesses invaluable knowledge and skill to negotiate an arrangement to serve your child’s interests moving forward.