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In the state of Utah, it is becoming increasingly common in custody cases for the Court to appoint a guardian ad litem. But what exactly does that mean? In this blog, we discuss the answer to this question.
A guardian ad litem, most commonly referred to as just a “guardian,” is an attorney appointed by the Court to represent the best interests of the disputing parties’ children. A guardian does not owe a duty to the parents, and instead, owes a duty to the children. In short, a guardian ad litem is an attorney for the children involved in a custody case.
A guardian can be appointed for any number of reasons, such as:
Once the guardian has completed their investigation, they will make recommendations to the Court on what they believe to be in the children’s best interests.
More often than not, the Court will appoint a private guardian, meaning that it is the responsibility of the parties to pay for the guardian’s time and efforts involved in the case. This can be a significant expense, which is why both parties need to seriously consider if they really want to ask the Court to appoint a guardian.
A guardian can be incredibly helpful in divorce cases because they have the ability to help all parties involved reach a resolution that is in their children’s best interests. However, this decision should only be made after careful consideration of all the pros and cons associated with having a guardian appointed to your case. If you think a guardian ad litem will help speed up your divorce proceedings, make sure to consult with an experienced family law attorney before committing to a decision.
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A guardian ad litem, most commonly referred to as just a “GAL,” is an attorney appointed by the Court to represent the child(ren) involved in a custody case and their best interests.
It’s best to keep conversations positive and focus on how you can provide the best environment for your child. Avoid speaking poorly about the other parent or putting your child in the middle.
In most cases, it’s the responsibility of the parents to equally pay for the GAL’s time and efforts. Therefore, traditionally, each parent is responsible for half the GAL’s total costs. However, this is not always the case and many other additional factors such as income disparity between the parties may factor into the analysis as to who pays for the GAL or who pays more for the GAL. As a result, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced family law attorney so that they can analyze how you should address GAL payments with the court.
The court will place substantial weight on what the guardian recommends since they are the only person in the proceedings who solely represents the child’s interests. Typically, the court will follow the GAL’s recommendations. However, it is important to remember that this is not always the case and it is important to have an experienced family law attorney review the facts of your case prior to you agreeing to a GAL’s recommendations.
The GAL investigates details that could affect the child’s well-being and the parent-child relationship. For example, they’ll inquire about the stability of each parent’s home, the nature of the dispute, co-parenting relationship, family history, and more.
The GAL is trained to look for several things at a home visit. First and foremost, they want to ensure the children’s safety and the parent’s competency. They’ll look to ensure there is healthy food in the refrigerator, the home is clean and orderly, and the children have a proper bed, toys, books, and clean clothes. They’ll also investigate whether abuse has occurred and interview the children to determine their goals and concerns regarding visitation and parent-time.
You may ask your judge to appoint a GAL at any point if you believe that the assistance of a neutral person would be beneficial. Make sure to consult with an experienced family law attorney before making a decision.
GAL’s can range from $150-$350 per hour. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to find one to work on a pro bono basis.
Although each case is unique, it typically takes a GAL a few months to complete their investigation and make a recommendation to the court.
A GAL may ask detailed questions to gather information that could help the judge make an informed custody decision. Here’s a list of a questions they may ask children:
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