Divorce is an emotional time for all parties involved, and sometimes it is difficult to remain objective and attempt to pursue a resolution that is in everyone’s best interests. When minor children are involved, these difficulties multiply and perhaps heighten involved emotions. That is why most family courts utilize a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of minor children in matters of custody.
Custody of Minor Children
Schill Law Group explains that a judge must decide both physical and legal custody for any minor children. Physical custody governs with whom the children live and how much visitation time the parent without physical custody receives. Legal custody governs who has the authority to make decisions for the children.
Best Interests of a Child
The best interest of a child is a legal standard that defines guidelines a judge must consider in matters of child custody. It is important to remember that “best interests” is a set of guidelines and not black-and-white laws. Judges will generally consider factors such as the children’s wishes, mental and physical health of all parties, past evidence of abuse or neglect, other family relationships, religious considerations and the need for overall stability. This list is not exhaustive and varies by court.
Guardian ad Litem Roles
Guardians ad Litem are regulated under state and local laws, so their specific roles will vary by jurisdiction. In general, Guardians ad Litem act on behalf of the court as investigators who are tasked with fact-finding in all matters related to the best interests of any minor children. Guardians ad Litem will research the children’s family situation with respect to all aspects governed by guidelines and then make a recommendation to the court based upon what would be best for the children as opposed to what the children prefer or what each of the parent’s wish.
Risk to Your Court Case
The appointment of a Guardian ad Litem to your case seems as if it should only be positive. As a parent, you only want what is best for your children, so having someone involved who is tasked with remaining objective and advocating only for them is a good thing. Unfortunately, since Guardians ad Litem are regulated at the state and local level, their quality and effectiveness can vary widely due to differences in minimum qualifications, training requirements, the scope of their duties and their compensation. It is best to discuss this risk with your legal representation as they will be familiar with the jurisdictional realities of your case’s Guardian ad Litem and can most properly mitigate any risk.
Going through major life changes of any kind is disquieting at best and extremely distressing at worse. In the case of a divorce, having others decide your children’s custody can sometimes seem unbearable and make you feel as though the situation is out of control. Developing a solid understanding, however, of the parties involved in decisions, understanding the scope of their roles and working with your counsel to pursue the best overall outcome can bring peace of mind.