Child custody cases are often complicated and emotionally draining. There is a myriad of different laws and conditions that may apply to your case that can affect your ability to see your children. One term you should be familiar with is Guardian Ad Litem or legally recognized guardian for a judicially-determined period of time.
In child custody cases, it’s quite often that both parents have personal, strong opinions about custody arrangements. Unfortunately, most of the time these opinions are only taking into account a parent’s perspective, leaving the child’s best interests an afterthought. Having a Guardian Ad Litem appointed ensures a third party perspective that will protect the best interests and opinions of the child involved.
An important thing to note is that Guardian Ad Litem services add quite a bit to the overall court expenses. Given that they will be involved throughout the duration of the case, the costs associated add up over this time. Should there be a particularly contentious case involving multiple parental disputes and claims, the cost of Guardian Ad Litem services may exceed $1,000.
Under California law, those under the age of 18 can be appointed a Guardian Ad Litem, also referred to as Minor’s Counsel. A judge will determine if a Guardian Ad Litem is needed in the case using their own discretion or by request of one or both parents. Their job is to investigate the details, opinions, and circumstances of the case and generates a report based on their findings.
The investigation process consists of a series of interviews with those closest to the child, such as their parents, family members, teachers, counselors, and other people with influence in their lives. The Guardian Ad Litem takes into account how much time the child spends with each parent throughout the course of the week or however long the case runs. Another factor to consider may be the developmental needs of the child, which will also depend on their age group and stage of life. Younger children will certainly need to have a stronger sense of consistency throughout the divorce process. Older children and teenagers may need more emphasis on communication and a strong sense of parental roles. Ultimately the child’s wishes, as well as the parent’s, will play a big role in the overall report.
Once the report is finalized, the courts will then use the results of their investigation to influence their decisions. The influence, however, is limited in that a judge can determine a decision that may contradict the Guardian Ad Litem’s findings. At the end of the day, emphasis will always be placed on the child’s wellbeing.
If you are going through a divorce or have a child custody case, San Diego Divorce Lawyers’ experienced team of attorneys can help you navigate legal protocols. Contact us today!