Guardian ad Litem’s Role in High Custody-Dispute Litigation
Attorney Tori White has participated as a Guardian ad Litem Â (GAL) for the Fulton County Superior Family Court under the guidance of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyerâ€™s Foundation.Â This program providesÂ advocates who represent the best interests of abused, neglected children and children of parents involved in high-conflict custody disputes in court. Â They play aÂ pivotal investigative role to assist the family court judge in ascertaining the best interests of your child.Â Â The Guardian’s role is to investigate the allegations and issues in each case and to try to help the court act in the children’s best interest. Guardians are frequently able to facilitate settlement of the familyâ€™s dispute in order to help minimize the impact of the dispute on the children, and a very large percentage of our GAL cases settle prior to trial.
As your childrenâ€™s court-appointed GAL, we will meet with each parent and your children to observe the interaction with each parent.Â We will schedule home visits and talk with witnesses about the children and the partiesâ€™ respective parenting abilities and involvement with the children.Â It is often necessary to review medical, educational and government records related to the family including any evidence of drug or physical abuse including criminal records.
It is our goal throughout the investigation to offer solutions when the parties are unable to agree.Â We let both parties know what we perceive to be in the childrenâ€™s best interest, at the conclusion of the investigation. Â Often, this will assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable parenting plan without going to trial.Â The White Law Office, LLC, serving as your childrenâ€™s GAL, may participate in hearings, deposition, and mediation, if necessary and can testify at trial.
Here are some important tips for parents considering appointment of a Guardian ad Litem:
- A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) cannot give legal advice
- A GAL isÂ not your childâ€™s guardian. A guardian is a person who has the authority and duty to care for a child, typically, a parent.Â The role of the Guardian ad Litem is to assist the Family Court Judge in ascertaining the best interests of your child.
- The Guardian ad LitemÂ will NOT make the final decision about custody and visitation. Only the Family Court Judge can make that decision.
- What you tell the GAL is not confidential.Â Itâ€™s a good idea to discuss with your attorney the information you share with the GAL. It could affect the strategy of your case.
- The parents are responsible, with few exceptions, for the Guardian ad Litemâ€™s fee.Â As with other phases of the litigation, you control how expensive the case is.
- It is not your childâ€™s job to determine their best interest, the less your child knows about the ongoing litigation, the less impact will be felt. I am more impressed with parties that can work with me as the GAL to reach this determination without involving the children in the dispute.