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Guardians Ad Litem In Child Custody Actions


When you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are going through a divorce, perhaps the most important and difficult issue that must be worked out is child custody. It is the public policy of the state of Georgia that the best interests of the child must drive any kind of custody determination, and if you and your spouse are not able to arrive at that determination on your own, the court will investigate that matter to make a determination. Part of that investigation will often be naming a guardian ad litem as a third person who can  act as the investigative arm of the court and objectively represent your child or children’s interests. Only those individuals who have received training administered or approved by the Office of the Child Advocate may serve as a guardian ad litem in a proceeding concerning the custody or welfare of a child.

Providing An Unbiased Perspective

Child custody is the divorce decision that is by far the most likely to result in arguments and hostility, with each parent believing that they deserve a specific amount of parenting time. Because of the obvious importance of child custody, it is unfortunately true that parents – even those  who are well-intended and with no history of abuse or violence – may focus more on their own interests and well-being rather than those of their children, and may push for custody situations that may not be best for the minor children.  In this situation, and pursuant to Uniform Superior Court Rule 24.9,  a court may – but is not required to – nominate a guardian ad litem, in order to represent the child’s interests.  A guardian ad litem is most commonly appointed in child custody matters when there is serious disagreement regarding which parent would be the most appropriate custodian or primary caretaker for the child or children involved.

If a Georgia family court nominates a guardian ad litem to speak for your child’s interests, two things are crucial for you to understand. The first is that no presumption of unfitness should be drawn from this appointment – in other words, the court is not saying it thinks you are an unfit parent; it merely wants to make certain that your child’s interests are represented. The second is that the guardian ad litem represents only your child’s interests – they do not represent you and do not owe you any kind of information or assistance.

Gives A Recommendation To The Court

The job of a guardian ad litem is to investigate the case and anything that might be related to discovering just what the best interests of the child or children are in your particular situation. It is the responsibility of a court appointed guardian ad litem to assist the court and the parents in reaching decisions concerning the custody, visitation and other issues concerning the minor child or children involved in the action.

They are authorized to do things like visit your home, inspect the child’s living situation and family relationships, and subpoena any other information that they may find necessary in order to make a determination, including but not limited to a parent’s medical and mental health records. It is important for parents to be honest and forthcoming with a guardian assigned to their case, as it is the guardian’s responsibility to determine what is in the best interest of the child based on objective evidence. Once their investigation is concluded, they will issue a report to the judge. This recommendation is not binding, but it is considered highly persuasive.

When it comes time to make a custody determination, the judge is required to weigh a host of different factors, including the child’s wishes if they are over age 14, the bond between the child and each parent, any evidence of past neglect or abuse, and many others. The guardian ad litem’s report is designed to help the judge weigh these factors, so it is important that the guardian ad litem be granted access to all the relevant information they require – that way, your child’s interests are certain to be well protected, which any good parent wants.

Can An Atlanta Child Custody Lawyer Help You?

Custody battles can be draining, intimidating, and sometimes out-and-out toxic. A guardian ad litem can help minimize hostility, and ensure that your children are placed where they can thrive. If you have further questions about child custody or working with a guardian ad litem, it is important to consult an Atlanta child custody lawyer. The experienced family law attorneys at Buckhead Family Law are happy to try and assist you. Contact our office today.



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