Child custody can be one of the most highly contested issues in the legal system, as well as one of the most challenging issues for the court to resolve. In order to assist the courts with resolving custody cases, the court will often appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate the circumstances of the parents and the children and make recommendations to the court regarding custody.
A Guardian Ad Litem is a trained individual, usually an attorney, who has special training and experience regarding child custody issues. The Guardian’s role is to represent the best interest of the children. Typically the Guardian will meet with both parents and the children, as well as other important people in the children’s lives, such as other relatives and teachers. The Guardian may also review medical records for the children and the parents, especially in cases where there are allegations of child abuse or drug abuse by a parent. The Guardian may also make recommendations about psychological testing or drug screens, as appropriate in each case. Most importantly, the Guardian provides a voice for the children in the courtroom by conveying the children’s desires regarding custody.
The Guardian does not make any decisions regarding custody, only recommendations. Those recommendations may include which parent should have primary physical custody, what parenting plans may be appropriate for each parent, and will also address special circumstances, such as supervised visitation. The recommendations are relayed to the court through reports and the testimony of the Guardian. The court considers the recommendations of the Guardian Ad Litem, along with the evidence presented during trial, to reach a custody determination that is in the best interests of the children.