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What is a 'Guardian Ad Litem' in Georgia child custody?

As we have touched on previously, Georgia child custody cases can become contentious. Parents may have differing views on how a child is raised, and both may want to have the children with them on a regular basis. Further, because custody cases are often part of a divorce, or happen alongside requests for support, there may be other issues that parents care about that factor into the decisions they make regarding their kids.

In recognition of this, Georgia family courts have the power to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem in domestic relations cases. A family judge may do this if he or she believes that an objective eye and voice are needed to inform the court of what may be in the child's best interests. For example, according to Fulton County's family court rules, the GAL is considered an "officer of the court," and helps the court make determinations on issues of custody, visitation and anything else that concerns the child.

A GAL in a Georgia family case has a right to look at all documentation filed with the Clerk of Court that pertains to the child, and can request consent of a party or the court to review other documents. He or she can also request the court to order a mental or physical evaluation of the child or any of the parties in a case. The GAL may also visit the home in which a child is meant to live if a certain party is given custody.

Having an objective individual advocate for the best interests of the child can be a good thing when the emotions of a divorce or child custody proceeding become overly passionate. In many cases, a GAL report can lead to parents resolving custody issues before trial. However, parents should remember that a GAL does not represent their interests, and may wish to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional regarding their own rights in a family case.

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