When parents divorce or navigate child custody issues, the best interests of the child should always be at the forefront. In fact, under Alabama state law, the child’s needs are the guiding principle in these decisions. In cases where it’s difficult to ascertain what is truly best for a child, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem. The GAL investigates the child’s living situation, needs, the capabilities of both parents and other factors relevant to the case in order to advocate for the child in question.
How could a Guardian ad Litem affect your family law case, and what should you expect? Learn more about your legal options now by calling Coumanis & York at 251-336-3121.
The Purpose of the Guardian ad Litem in Divorce Cases
Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but it puts a significant amount of strain on a child. Consider it from the child’s point of view: overnight, the parents they’ve grown up with are interacting with each other differently, living separately, and changing how they spend time with the child. In the best-case scenario, the parents can figure out a custody arrangement that best meets the child’s needs and allows them substantial time with both parents. When they are unable to agree or there are suspicions of parental alienation, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem.
In a divorce case, the Guardian ad Litem plays an important role in ensuring that the child is advocated for throughout the divorce process. They are often called in when both parents want full custody or refuse to agree on a custody arrangement. The GAL will investigate the child’s life by talking to them, teachers who know them, medical professionals, and parents.
They may get a solid understanding of the child’s routines, who provides the majority of their care, and their relationship with both parents. From there, they consider different solutions for the issues faced by the family. They make their professional recommendations to the court and provide evidence to back up their suggestions.
Child Custody Cases and the Guardian ad Litem’s Role
Child custody issues can arise at any time—during a divorce, between unmarried parents, and long after a divorce has concluded. These disputes can be particularly challenging for children, as they may notice a shift in their parents’ stress levels, presentness at home, and an increase in arguing at custody exchanges. The child may not be able to advocate for themselves, either due to their age or because there is suspicion or parental alienation. When this occurs, a Guardian ad Litem may step in to be the child’s voice.
One of the GAL’s goals is to evaluate each parent’s ability to parent and their suitability for the role. This may involve looking at who does the majority of the parenting in the current agreement, whether or not the child’s needs are being met, and how a change in custody arrangements would affect the child. They use this information to consider different parenting plans and schedules, looking at them through the lens of what is best for the child.
The GAL may listen to a variety of people during this process, including the child in question, attorneys for both parties, therapists, teachers, and medical providers. This gives them a solid understanding of what the child wants, who meets the child’s needs, and if there are any serious issues with the current custody arrangement.
Once the GAL has made their decisions regarding what type of custody arrangements would be in the child’s best interest, they make their recommendations to the court. They may provide insight from the variety of sources they used and the research they did into the child’s life. The court may follow the GAL’s recommendations to the letter, incorporate parts of their recommendations into the final ruling, or dismiss them entirely.
Facing Family Law Issues? Call Coumanis & York
No matter which type of family law concerns you’re facing, having the right attorney on your side can make a big difference. Let us help. Call our Daphne office at 251-336-3121, call our Mobile office at 251-336-3491, or reach out to our team online to set up a consultation now.