Georgia Superior Court Rule 24.9 provides for the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to assist in domestic relations cases in superior court. The GAL is a trained professional tasked with representing the best interests of the child and assisting the court and the parties in reaching a decision regarding child custody, visitation and child-related issues. Additionally, should the issue of child custody and/or visitation be tried, the GAL shall be available to offer testimony in accordance Superior Court Rule 24.9. A common scenario where a Guardian ad Litem could be assigned to a child custody case is where a parent has expressed concerns about the safety of the child to the court. In this case, the GAL would serve as an independent unbiased party with the power to interview parties and obtain documents to assist the court. This typically is done with a report to the court outlining what the GAL believes in the best interest of the child.
Per O.C.G.A. §15-11-105, during their investigation the GAL is required to consider the following factors:
- The physical safety and welfare of such child, including food, shelter, health, and clothing;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- Evidence of domestic violence in any current, past, or considered home for such child;
- Such child’s background and ties, including familial, cultural, and religious;
- Such child’s sense of attachments, including his or her sense of security and familiarity and continuity of affection for the child;
- The least disruptive placement alternative for such child;
- The child’s wishes and long-term goals;
- The child’s community ties, including church, school, and friends;
- The child’s need for permanence, including his or her need for stability and continuity of relationships with a parent, siblings, and other relatives;
- The uniqueness of every family and child;
- The risks attendant to entering and being in substitute care;
- The preferences of the persons available to care for such child; and
- Any other factors considered by the guardian ad litem to be relevant and proper to his or her determination.
Additionally, the GAL is required by O.C.G.A. §15-11-105 to maintain regular contact with the child and complete an independent assessment on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case.
In most cases the court has appointed a Guardian ad Litem to the case due to a concern expressed by either parent regarding the child’s well-being. The court will be relying on the GAL to provide independent advice on what is in the child’s best interest. A GAL investigation can take several months and involve several requests to interview the parties, the child, review documents and make in-home assessments of living conditions. This can obviously be very intrusive. Nonetheless, it is recommended that each party fully cooperate with the Guardian ad Litem in order to ensure that the information is accurately portrayed. Additionally, the court will typically have experience working with certain GALs. Therefore, a party that is not cooperating with the GAL investigation will likely not be favorably viewed by the court.
- Other issues that GALs report to the court that can complicate matters is when
- parents are speaking negatively to the child about the other parent.
- parents are coaching or attempting to influence the child to make misrepresentations to the GAL.
- Parents are not prepared to provide documentation. Most issues are contested in custody cases. You may have to provide documentation that doctor’s appointments have been kept or that a tutor was provided to assist with schoolwork. It is important to remember that the GAL has a limited period of time to conduct their investigation and delays in producing needed documents can cause delays with the resolution of the case.
Guardian ad Litem have a lot of influence on the court. An experience child custody attorney can help you navigate through the child custody legal process and provide advice on working with the GAL. The Faucette Law Firm, LLC represents clients in contested and uncontested divorce, child custody, child support, modifications, adoptions legitimations and spousal support. We serve Atlanta, Fulton, Douglasville, Hiram, Paulding, DeKalb, Henry, Gwinnett, Carroll, Coweta, Clayton, Cobb and Fayette. Contact our law firm today for consultation.