A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an individual, sometimes an attorney or mental health professional, who acts as the child’s voice throughout the child custody or child custody modification process. This ensures that the court is able to act in the child’s best interests. The guardian will then give her recommendation on what actions the court should take to uphold the best interests of the child.
If the GAL is not an attorney, she or he must be a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). CASA training meets the requirements to be a GAL. She must also receive special training administered by the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children.
What does a guardian ad litem do?
To ensure the court acts in the best interests of the child, guardians ad litem must investigate all aspects of the case to determine the best custody choice for the child.
To represent the best interests of the child, the GAL may:
Interview the child and any other involved parties (e.g., parents, family members, teachers, religious leaders, coaches, etc.)
Request the child’s medical and educational records
Request the child or parents undergo psychological testing
Visit the child’s home
After the GAL has conducted her investigation, she or he will draft a report with her/his recommendations. While the GAL will consider the child’s wishes, she or he will always act in the child’s best interests (e.g., if the child wants to live with one parent, but the GAL finds that parent has a substance abuse problem, she will go against the child’s wishes).
If the parents disagree with the GAL’s recommendation, they can each present witnesses and/or evidence as to why they disagree, but the judge has the final say.
Why is a guardian ad litem important to my Georgia child custody case? A guardian is important to represent the best interests of the child. A guardian ad litem can investigate educational records, medical records, issues of neglect, or drug abuse, and many others. A guardian helps reduce a lengthy trial as a guardian may submit a report before trial, which compartmentalizes much of the evidence and testimony into one document.
Georgia courts put tremendous weight into the recommendations of guardians ad litem. Therefore, it is extremely important to provide as much information about your case as possible in order for the Guardian to make an informed decision.
If you have any questions about the Guardian please contact the law office of Candace M. Williams PC, 678-316-5000, 17+ years family law.