If you're in the midst of a child custody dispute, the term Guardian Ad Litem, or "GAL", may be familiar to you. A guardian ad litem may be used during custody disputes to help the courts determine how to award primary custody and schedule visitation.
Before appearing in court, it is essential to be aware of what to anticipate from your guardian ad litem visit. You should understand what they are looking for in their investigation, how you can prepare for your initial meeting, how long the court process will take, how much it will cost, and how you can prepare for this meeting.
If you're interested in learning more about the process of preparing for a guardian ad litem visit, The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson, here in Colorado Springs, offers legal guidance and assistance in this area.
Contact our office if you'd like more information or would like to talk to a Colorado Springs child custody attorney.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
A guardian ad litem is a lawyer, volunteer, or mental health professional appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child in legal proceedings. The guardian ad litem is responsible for conducting an investigation into the child’s needs and making sure that their best interests are upheld in court. This includes determining a custody plan that would be most beneficial for the child, as well as whether any protections, such as supervised visitation, are necessary.
When making their recommendation to the judge, the guardian ad litem will carefully consider all relevant factors, including the wishes of both parents, any history of child abuse or neglect, important medical records, and any other details that could identify what environment is most beneficial to the child.
In order to gain a better insight into the situation, they will also communicate with those involved, including teachers, doctors, and social workers. It is ultimately the court's responsibility to determine the most suitable custody arrangement for the child, though having a guardian ad litem involved can assist in guaranteeing that all sides are listened to and decisions are made with the child's best interests as a priority.
What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?
The guardian ad litem will meet with all parties involved in the case to make a recommendation on who should be awarded primary custody. This includes parents, family members, and other professionals who may have knowledge about the child’s situation. They will also review any relevant records related to the case, observe the child's daily routines, the mother and father's parenting styles, and examine the child's school records such as report cards.
The guardian ad litem will also examine psychological evaluations of the parents and/or children and will look into any physical health issues that may be concerning.
After gathering all of this information, they will make a custody recommendation to the court regarding what arrangement would be best for the child's well-being. The guardian ad litem will also provide ongoing support and guidance to ensure that any arrangements made are in line with what is in the best interest of the child.
How Long is a Guardian Ad Litem Involved in a Custody Case?
The Guardian Ad Litem is a key part of the court proceedings and they will work with you until all facets of their investigation are completed. They must be present for all legal hearings and will provide a response in regard to any motions or petitions that may influence the child's interests while the case continues. Usually, the GAL maintains his or her involvement until the concluding hearing, and possibly beyond that if necessary to ensure that all parties adhere to the court ruling.
It is critical for the guardian ad litem to get to know your child and their needs before making any pivotal decisions. To do this, the guardian ad litem should hold an interview with your child if he or she is at least four years old. This conversation will help them learn about your child's desires and emotions, as well as other information that can play a key role in the case.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem Looking For?
The GAL’s primary role is to investigate the facts of the case and make custody recommendations to the court about what would be in the best interest of the child. When looking into a case, the GAL will look at all aspects of the child’s life that could affect their well-being and the parent-child relationship.
This includes examining each parent’s home environment for stability, assessing how well parents can cooperate or if they need help learning to do so, and evaluating any mental health issues either parent may have. They will also evaluate if the parents have any history of crime, if there has been any evidence of domestic violence or substance abuse issues. The guardian ad litem will likely be looking for whether or not there is a disabled adult participating in the custody fight and if this might affect the child's well-being.
Learn More: How Fathers Can Get Child Custody
The GAL will always prioritize what is best for the child when making their recommendation to the court. They take into account what the child wants and will consider the parents' desires for custody placement, but ultimately, the GAL will always consider the child's safety and well-being first.
The GAL also works with other professionals such as social workers, psychologists, and attorneys to ensure that all relevant information is taken into consideration when making their decision. Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide which outcome would be in the best interest of the child based on all available evidence presented.
How Much Does a Guardian Ad Litem Cost?
The cost of a guardian ad litem can vary greatly depending on the location and type of services provided. Generally, parents are responsible for paying the guardian ad litem unless they provide the court with proof that they cannot afford to. In Colorado, a guardian ad litem tends to have an hourly rate of $15 - $100, but this may vary depending on your specific case. Although it can be expensive, hiring a guardian ad litem to represent your interests in a legal case can be a wise decision.
In some cases, GALs may be volunteers who do not receive any compensation for their work. In these instances, it is important to remember that although there is no financial cost associated with their services, these individuals are still providing an invaluable service by advocating on behalf of children in family court proceedings. It is important to understand all of the costs associated with hiring a GAL before making any decisions about legal representation.
Call Jeanne M. Wilson Today!
In some states and for some cases, guardian ad litems are not required. However, under Colorado state law, a guardian ad litem must be assigned to all dependency and neglect cases. If you are looking for legal counsel in regard to a child custody battle in Colorado Springs, our experienced family law attorney Jeanne M. Wilson is available to provide valuable advice and direction.
At The Law Office of Jeanne M. Wilson & Associates, we recognize that the legal process for child custody fights can be intimidating and we will help you prepare for your legal proceedings. Call Jeanne M. Wilson today at (719) 625-8886 for more information and to schedule a consultation.