When people are engaged in a custody dispute, it is very common for the court to order a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the best interest of the children. We have previously discussed the obligations imposed on the guardian ad litem, along with the rights that the guardian ad litem has and the way the court relies upon the GAL’s investigation in making a determination. But practically, what can you expect?
The court will issue an order appointing the guardian. Sometimes this occurs early in the divorce process, often at a temporary hearing if custody or visitation is contested. At other times, the lawyers recognize that a guardian ad litem is required, so the parties consent to the appointment of a guardian ad litem.
Once the order is signed by a judge appointing the GAL, our office will provide the guardian ad litem with information about your case, such as affidavits prepared for court, court paperwork, and prior orders. We will also provide the guardian with your contact information. We will copy you with the cover letter to the GAL with the information about your case and your contact information.
While certain things are required of a GAL, each guardian will conduct his own investigate in his own unique style. I have found that the GAL will usually contact our client directly. However, it is not a bad idea for the client to contact the GAL if the client has not heard from the GAL within a week or 10 days of the guardian’s being appointed and provided information about the parent or party.
It is important to cooperate with the guardian ad litem and to follow your court orders. If the court order requires you to provide something to the guardian, do it in a timely manner. Cooperate with reasonable requests. Be on time. This is common sense, and should not be done simply for the sake of getting on the Guardian’s good side; rather, this demonstrates to the GAL and also the court that you are responsible and your intent is directed towards the best interest of the children.
Often, the court will direct in its first order that the GAL prepare a preliminary report and file it with the court within a fixed amount of time—for example, within 45 days of the order.
The GAL is not a judge and is not expected to micromanage every aspect of conflict between the parents. So the GAL should not be inundated with every minor disagreement. Ask the guardian ad litem at your first meeting what sort of things she would like brought to her attention while your case is pending. Ask your lawyer for guidance on this issue if you’re unsure.
The guardian ad litem also participates in court hearings and in the merits trial.
The role of the guardian ad litem is very important: it keeps the focus on the children in a custody case or any family court dispute. Although the guardian is not exactly on “your side”—certainly not in the way your attorneys are dedicated to your side—the guardian is committed to the best interest of your child or children. You have to respect that.
If you are engaged in a custody or visitation dispute and you would like to talk to a lawyer about your case, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Holland & Usry, P.A. at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841.