WHAT IS A GUARDIAN AD LITEM?
A guardian ad litem (guardian of the lawsuit or GAL) is a court-appointed individual who represents a child, estate, or incapacitated party that cannot act for or take care of themselves. In family law cases, the guardian ad litem is generally given the task of looking after the best interests of a child during divorce, parental rights issues, or custody proceedings. Typically, a GAL is appointed when the parties have major disagreements. Ultimately, a GAL is a neutral person.
In Georgia, a GAL can be an attorney or someone who isn’t an attorney. In the case of a non-attorney, Georgia law states that whenever possible a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer serves as the GAL. The law also allows for both an attorney and a CASA volunteer to serve as the child’s GAL.
Before anyone can be appointed as a GAL in dependency cases in the juvenile court, they must have special training from, or approved by, the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children.
The founder and principal attorney of Waggoner Family Law, Amy Waggoner, is a trained guardian ad litem with many years of experience. She is a highly compassionate and remains 100% neutral while ensuring that the interests of every minor child are protected.
DO I NEED A GUARDIAN AD LITEM IN GEORGIA?
The State of Georgia’s Office of the Child Advocate emphasizes that all children have the right to an attorney at all stages of court proceedings. If necessary, the court will appoint one. When children are neglected or abused, the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and state law require the appointment of a GAL.
In some cases, children are represented by a GAL because the court deems it necessary. Sometimes, parents or guardians choose to have a GAL representing the child or children. In some instances, all the parties concerned, including the court, may decide that a GAL isn’t needed. A GAL can play a pivotal role in any child custody proceedings or divorce procedures that involve children, even when there has been no neglect or abuse.
In the context of family law cases in general, the role of a guardian ad litem usually involves research, interviews, and making recommendations to the court. Usually this will be about what would be in the child’s best interests in terms of living arrangements and parenting time. Having a GAL takes the stress of strategic and sometimes traumatic decisions off parents. It also allows an unbiased third party to ensure that the best interests of your child or children remains the top priority.
Then, there’s the question, what are the “best interests” of a child? While there are various elements, something that will always be considered will be the age of the child. For example, the best interests of a five year old may be very different to those of a 15-year-old.
THE ROLE OF WAGGONER FAMILY LAW
At Waggoner Family Law we believe that every child deserves to have someone fighting for their best interests, be it a GAL or an attorney dedicated to their needs. Our experienced professionals will help to investigate each case thoroughly so that families can move forward in an amicable and positive manner.
Contact us today if you require skilled legal guidance related to guardian ad litem law. This way you will be able to move forward positively knowing that the children involved have the very best representation possible.