If you are beginning the divorce process with minor children in tow, you can expect custody issues to rank among the issues that dominate discussions. In some cases, a Georgia judge may choose to appoint a guardian ad litem.
GALs can play a major role in custody and parenting issues before the court. Knowing how the process works can help you stay informed and work to do what is best for your children.
Who can be a GAL
Judges may appoint a GAL to act in a case that involves the issue of the custody or welfare of a child. Many GALs are attorneys, but that is not a requirement; they may be mental health professionals or other professionals who qualify for the position and have completed proper training by the Office of the Child Advocate or an approved organization.
What kinds of cases need a GAL
Not every case with a custody dispute will need a GAL. Generally, courts appoint a GAL when there is a major dispute about who should get custody or be primary caretaker, or when one parent’s ability to safely parent is in question.
What the GAL does
The GAL’s task is to undertake a thorough investigation of all factors that pertain to the issue of custody or of any allegations of being an unfit parent. They may look into the child’s background, family conditions, schooling and anything else that would help them determine what arrangements would be best for the child.
In the course of the investigation, the GAL may need to obtain a written release or a court order in order to view confidential records. The GAL may also direct the child or the parents to get a physical or mental health evaluation if necessary. They may interview relatives, teachers and the child, and visit the child’s home.
Making the recommendation
When the GAL completes the investigation, he or she writes a report for the court detailing the findings and making a recommendation as to what custody or visitation arrangements would be best for the child. If the GAL recommends against one of the parents, that parent can have the opportunity to refute the recommendation later.