The Role of the Guardian Ad Litem in your Divorce
By Doug Bellon
In a contested custody matter many parents are rightfully concerned about who will be representing the interest of their children in and out of the court room.
A Guardian Ad Litem is typically an attorney who has completed a mandated number of continuing legal education hours (training) who is appointed by the Family Court Judge to represent the interest of your children.
In a divorce or custody matter the Court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem upon its own motion or upon the motion of one of the parties. But, a Guardian Ad Litem is not appointed in every contested custody case.
According to Missouri Law a Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed in any proceeding for child custody, divorce or legal separation where custody, visitation, or support of a child is a contested issue. Depending on the individual Judge presiding over your custody matter, the mere fact that you may have a contested issue of custody may not be enough for the Judge to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem. However, Missouri law provides that when allegations of abuse or neglect of a child are raised one shall be appointed.
Once appointed, it is the Guardian Ad Litem's responsibility to investigate any allegations of abuse or neglect including conducting interviews of all parties, relevant witnesses and reviewing relevant documentary evidence as necessary. They possess subpoena power just like the other parties in your custody matter and may subpoena witnesses, examine, cross-examine witnesses and testify as to their findings relevant to the children's best interest.
The role of the Guardian Ad Litem is a vital one in any contested custody case and the influence he or she can have on the outcome can be very significant. A respected Guardian Ad Litem's recommendations as to the custodial arrangement can often appear to be the deciding factor in your Family Court Judge's decision. Therefore, it is critical that you have an in-depth discussion with your legal counsel about the specific role of the Guardian Ad Litem in your particular custody case and have a good understanding as to their role in your particular set of circumstances.
If you have a contested issue of child custody, visitation or support please welcome to contact our office for a consultation.