Domestic relations cases involving children can become complicated and contentious. Parents may have differing views on how their child is to be raised and both may want to have child custody. Issues may also arise during related proceedings that factor into the decision a parent may make regarding the children. For instance, if the case involves divorce, then the marital home may be sold and the question will arise of where the children will live and attend school.
In response to this, the Georgia family courts have the power to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) in many domestic relations cases. A family judge may appoint a GAL if he or she believes that an objective eye and voice are needed to inform the court of what may be in the best interests of the child. For example, under the Fulton County’s family court rules, a GAL is considered an “officer of the court” and assists the court in making determinations on issues pertaining to custody, visitation, and anything else that concerns the child. Thus, a GAL is charged with conducting an investigation into the life of the child and providing a report as well as a recommendation to the Court.
A GAL is extremely important in cases in which one party has made a serious allegation about the ability of the other parent to provide proper care for the children or if the parties seriously disagree on who should be the primary caregiver for the children. On the other hand, a GAL would not be recommended in a case in which the parties have already come to an agreement regarding child custody and visitation.
The GAL is obligated to conduct a thorough investigation into the life of the children. During this process, a GAL in a Georgia family case has the right to look at all documents filed with the Clerk of the Court that pertain to the child and can request to review any other documents that may be useful. He or she can also request the court to order a mental or physical evaluation of the child or any of the parties to the case. The GAL may also visit the home in which a child is meant to live if a certain party is to be awarded custody.
A GAL may be an attorney or non-attorney. Many attorneys who practice in the area of domestic relations may work as attorneys for a spouse in a divorce case and as a GAL in a different case.
If you are contemplating initiating a family law case that involves children, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. Our experienced attorneys understand the effects that a domestic relations case may have on children and a parent’s desire to alleviate any negative effects. We will strive to ensure that all needs of your family are met.