Divorce can be a difficult experience for everyone involved, especially if you have minor children. The courts, in addition to trying to resolve the outstanding financial issues between the spouses fairly, also want to ensure that the interests of the children from a marriage are protected. In some instances, the judge might appoint a person called a " guardian ad litem" to represent the interests of any minors in the case. This article explores this important legal issue in more detail.
The court does not appoint a guardian ad litem, or GAL, in all cases involving minors, but in those where the judge is not certain that the children's interests are being protected. For example, if a judge feels that you and your spouse are too focused on each other and not on what is best for your children, he or she may feel a guardian ad litem is required. Also, some parents have difficulty being objective during a divorce and the judge may feel that an impartial voice representing the children can help resolve matters.
The main duty of the guardian ad litem is to represent the "best interests of the child," a legal term meaning that a child's security and well being are paramount. The GAL will look into various aspects of the child's life, such as their health, schooling, emotional development and any special needs. If either spouse makes accusations of abuse concerning the child, the GAL will investigate the charge carefully. The GAL not only has the authority to talk to witnesses about the child's well being, but may use the court's power of subpoena to force them to testify.
At the end of his investigation, the GAL will typically present a written report to the judge. The report will offer recommendations to the court based on the GAL''s findings. The recommendations may include such things as which parent should be have primary custody, how much time the non-custodial parent should spend with the child and whether the child needs any special service, such as psychological counseling.
The judge will take the GAL's report in consideration when making any decision regarding the child's welfare, but is not legally bound by the recommendations.
It's not unusual for a guardian ad litem to be appointed in divorce cases where the parents are at odds concerning arrangements for their children. To learn more about this complex topic, consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area.