Tonight’s post on how to handle the hostile Guardian ad Litem in a custody case, was written by one of our Atlanta Divorce Attorneys, Dina Khismatulina.
A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney or a non-attorney with special training that is appointed by the judge to represent the best interests of minor children. All Guardian wannabe’s have to complete training related to domestic relations law in general, and to custody and visitations in particular, including methods and techniques of communication with children and family environment investigation.
Additionally, Guardians must be approved by the court in which the Guardian serves. In some counties, Guardians are appointed at no cost to the parties, but normally their fees are divided by the parties.
A Guardian ad Litem investigates a case by interviewing the parties, their children, and numerous other witnesses (teachers, caregivers, etc.) and by visiting children’s homes and schools. A Guardian conducts interviews, accesses records, analyzes facts and compiles his or her recommendations into a report. In some states, like California and North Carolina, Guardians ad Litem are required to communicate the child’s wishes to the court as well as their own recommendations, but, unfortunately, Georgia does not have such a requirement.
It is immensely important to have the Guardian ad Litem on your side, because in the majority of cases, judges will follow the Guardian’s recommendations on custody and visitation.
But what can be done if a Guardian’s recommendations go against your interest in the case?
Fist of all, you can still present evidence to the judge contrary to the Guardian’s findings, because under Georgia Uniform Superior Court Rule 24.9 (6), a Guardian’s recommendations are not a substitute for the court’s independent discretion and judgment.
Further, you can subject the Guardian ad Litem to cross examination and can try to impeach them in trial. For example, you can present evidence that the Guardian is not qualified to serve as a Guardian due to a lack of training or has a substantial bias that has impacted the recommendations.
Moreover, under Georgia Uniform Superior Court Rule 24.9 (8)(h), you can file a motion to remove the Guardian ad Litem “for good cause shown” – meaning, that you have to present substantive evidence of a Guardian’s bias, unsatisfactory performance, or any other “good cause.
At the end of the day, even if the Guardian’s recommendations do not mirror your wishes, with the help of an experienced family law attorney, it is possible to beat the odds and still win your case.
In short, a Guardian’s recommendations should make sense. When their recommendations seem out of left field, you can bring that to the judge’s attention for a better result.