I recently had a lady come in because her husband was saying that he was going to have a guardian ad litem take away her custody rights. And she wanted to know what is a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem, in the context of divorce and family law with children, is a person that is appointed by the court to look to the best interests of the child and make a report to the judge. So that guardian ad litem can investigate the home, investigate any witnesses that know anything about the best interests of the child, look at medical records, and anything else relevant, and make a report to the judge.
The judge is not bound by that report but oftentimes will follow the recommendations. The guardian ad litem may make recommendations about custody, about visitation, and/or about any kind of restrictions that need to be placed either on the child or the parents. And the court can consider that.
Will a court appoint a guardian ad litem just because someone wants it? Not always. It really depends on your judge. Some judges will always appoint when someone requests one because they feel like it takes work off of them and lets someone else do a more in depth investigation. Some judges almost always say no, just present the facts to me and I can make a determination. Those judges believe it is the parties’ responsibility to bring that information to the court and the court does not need to involve these other people.
With some courts, they have a guardian ad litem that is already under contract. Thus, any time a guardian ad litem is requested, it goes to that guardian ad litem or that guardian ad litem firm. Some courts will use CASA, which is Court Appointed Special Advocate, which are volunteers that are trained to look at the best interests of the child.
A guardian ad litem can be an attorney but is not required to be an attorney. Sometimes the court appoint social workers or the CASA volunteers. So, it just really depends on your court system and your judge as to who would be appointed if a guardian ad litem is appointed.
And it is important to note, that once a guardian ad litem is appointed by the judge, you cannot fire that guardian ad litem. As such, you need to do your best to cooperate with that guardian ad litem and provide them all of the information that they need. And I'll do another video/blog on how to prepare and do that in the most appropriate way.
The advantages are that they can do an in-depth research investigation for the best interests of your child. One of the downsides is that it may be expensive. Sometimes in those situations where the court has a contract guardian ad litem person or firm that does their guardian ad litem work, the county may pay for that. But in other situations, the parties must pay for it. And it can get expensive depending on how much time is involved. Also in some situations it is a combination of both. The county pays for part, and the parties are required to pay for another part.
I hope that cleared up any questions that you might have about a guardian ad litem. If you think it will help someone else, please share. And if you would like more information about divorce and family law in Georgia, please subscribe to myYouTube channel.
Nedra K. Howard
Nedra has represented clients in matters relating to divorce, separate maintenance, child custody and support, family violence protective orders, adoption, prenuptial agreements, business disputes and litigation, personal injury, property damage, and wills.
John B. MIller & Associates, P.C.
16 Eastbrook Bend, Suite 201
Peachtree City, GA 30269
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