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Custody: When the Guardian ad Litem is not on your side.

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2023 | Custody

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 wannabes 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.

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What does a Guardian ad Litem do in Georgia?

A Guardian ad Litem in Georgia 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.

Who Pays for Guardian ad Litem in Georgia?

In many counties, the fees associated with the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) are divided between the parties involved. However, there are instances where the court may appoint a GAL at no cost to the parties if certain conditions are met. You’ll need to consult with your family law attorney to determine the specific payment arrangements for a Guardian ad Litem in Fulton County or your jurisdiction.

How Much Does a Guardian ad Litem in Atlanta Cost?

While the cost of a Guardian ad Litem in Atlanta may vary, it is important to be prepared for potential expenses. The fees charged by a GAL can depend on various factors, including the complexity of the case, the duration of their involvement, and the GAL’s individual rates. Typically, the fees are paid on an hourly basis, and it is advisable to discuss the anticipated costs with your attorney beforehand to ensure appropriate financial planning throughout the custody proceedings.

How to Win Over a Guardian ad Litem

When facing a custody case, winning over the Guardian ad Litem can significantly impact the outcome. Building a positive rapport with the GAL is essential, and preparing a comprehensive Guardian ad Litem home visit checklist can help.

When preparing for a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) home visit, it is helpful to have a checklist to ensure that your home environment is suitable for your child. Here are some key items to consider.

Guardian ad Litem Checklist:

  1. Safety Measures: Take steps to childproof your home by securing hazardous substances, covering electrical outlets, and installing safety gates on staircases if necessary. Ensure that smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in working order.
  2. Cleanliness and Organization: Maintain a clean and organized living space. Regularly tidy up common areas, bedrooms, and play areas. Pay attention to hygiene, including proper sanitation in the kitchen and bathroom.
  3. Adequate Sleeping Arrangements: Ensure that your child has a comfortable and age-appropriate sleeping space. Provide a clean and well-maintained bed with suitable bedding and consider the presence of a nightlight or other items that promote a safe and restful sleep.
  4. Child-Friendly Environment: Create a child-friendly environment by having age-appropriate toys, books, and games readily available. Consider the presence of a designated play area that encourages creativity and engagement.
  5. Educational Resources: Show that you prioritize your child’s education by having age-appropriate learning materials, such as books, educational games, or art supplies. Demonstrate an understanding of their educational needs and highlight any involvement you have in supporting their academic progress.
  6. Healthy Nutrition: Maintain a well-stocked kitchen with nutritious food options suitable for your child’s age and dietary requirements. Show awareness of their nutritional needs and provide evidence of a balanced and varied diet.
  7. Comfortable Living Conditions: Ensure that your home provides a comfortable and nurturing living environment. Consider factors such as temperature control, appropriate lighting, and the presence of comfortable seating areas for family interaction.
  8. Safe Outdoor Spaces: If applicable, ensure that any outdoor areas, such as a backyard or balcony, are safe for your child to explore. Remove any potential hazards and ensure the presence of appropriate safety measures, such as fencing or security gates.
  9. Communication and Co-Parenting: Display a willingness to communicate and cooperate with the other parent for the well-being of your child. Show evidence of effective communication methods, such as shared calendars or parenting apps, that promote positive co-parenting.

Remember that this checklist serves as a general guide, and the specific requirements may vary depending on the circumstances and the GAL involved in your case. 

Questions a Guardian ad Litem Asks

Being well-prepared for the questions a Guardian ad Litem asks is also crucial. Anticipate inquiries about your relationship with the child, daily routines, and your involvement in their education and extracurricular activities. Provide detailed and honest answers, emphasizing your commitment to the child’s well-being and your willingness to facilitate a positive co-parenting relationship. It is important to remember that the GAL’s role is to advocate for the child’s best interests, so presenting yourself as a capable and loving parent is key.

By following these strategies and maintaining a respectful and cooperative attitude throughout the process, you can increase your chances of winning over the Guardian ad Litem and ultimately achieving a favorable outcome in your custody case.

What to Do If a Guardian Goes Against Your Interests

But what can be done if a Guardian’s recommendations go against your interest in the case?

First 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 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 disqualify a Guardian ad Litem “for good cause shown” – meaning, that you have to present substantive evidence of a biased Guardian ad Litem, 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.