Divorce cases can be very complicated when children are involved. At times, it is necessary to appoint a Guardian ad Litem.
Divorce cases can get very complicated when children are involved. Apart from the emotional stress that the family members, especially the children undergo, there can be legal complications that prolong the divorce processes and add to the stress. In this article, we will discuss one aspect of divorce and child custody cases – the appointment of Guardian ad Litem.
Who is a Guardian ad Litem?
The Section 452.423 of the Missouri Revised Statute makes provision for a Guardian ad Litem – an impartial, objective individual who represents minor children in court cases like dissolution of marriage, contested custody or visitation rights, or in cases where a party has been alleged of child neglect or abuse.
A Guardian ad Litem represents any individual involved in a legal case, who cannot adequately represent himself / herself due to being a minor, mentally incapacitated or aged.
The representation of a Guardian ad Litem is provided by the court or can be requested by any of the parties to protect the interest of the minor.
When Can a Guardian ad Litem Be Appointed?
A Guardian ad Litem may be appointed by the court, or by request of any of the involved parties. On the other hand, any of the parties involved can even file an objection to a court appointed Guardian ad Litem, within the defined time limit following the appointment.
A Guardian ad Litem is usually appointed in case where:
- A child is suspected of being a victim of child abuse at the hands of either parent
- A parent is allegedly abusing a controlled substance or alcohol
- A child indicates a clear preference for one parent
- If the child exhibits behavior that is considered at-risk, delinquent or truant
Functions of a Guardian ad Litem
As per the Missouri Court standards, the Guardian ad Litem is appointed to protect the best interests of the child, or children, while at the same time conducting investigations that can help protect the interest of the child / children. The Guardian ad Litem has the power to cross-examine and question the child, or anyone having relevant information on the child and his/her well-being.
The Guardian ad Litem gets access to all school and medical records pertaining to the child, and based on the results of the investigation, he is expected to make recommendations to the court about the child’s custody and living arrangements, visitation, support, schooling, relationships and many other aspects of the child’s daily life that can make an impact on the well-being of the child.
The Guardian ad Litem also has the power to subpoena a witness to testify in court or at a deposition.
Appointing a Guardian Ad Litem
When a court appoints a Guardian ad Litem, it can order the parents to bear the fees of Guardian ad Litem. Therefore it is essential that both parties clearly understand and discuss the need for appointing Guardian ad Litem. The appointment allows an individual to legally gain access to all relevant information, set aside the decisions of the parents and then make decisions regarding the children. It is therefore advised that parents seeking divorce try to resolve custody and visitation issues and provide the court with a clear child support plan with the help of their respective lawyers.
However, in cases where amicable decision making is simply not possible, a Guardian ad Litem can be appointed.
St. Louis Divorce Attorneys
Our team of experienced divorce attorneys and aides assist our clients with these difficult decisions and help them choose the grounds that are most relevant to their case. In the midst of so much emotional upheaval, it can be difficult for the petitioner to face these types of choices. Our team of considerate attorneys will be there to help see you through these rough times.