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, legal complications can prolong the divorce process and add to the pressure. 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?
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 the 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 themselves due to being a minor, mentally incapacitated, or age.
The court provides the representation of a Guardian ad Litem or can be requested by any party to protect the minor’s interest.
When Can a Guardian ad Litem Be Appointed?
A Guardian ad Litem may be appointed by the court or by request of any 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 a 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 can cross-examine and question the child or anyone having relevant information on the child and their well-being.
The Guardian ad Litem gets access to all school and medical records about the child. 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 a Guardian ad Litem. The appointment allows an individual to gain access to all relevant information legally, set aside the parents’ decisions, 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, a Guardian ad Litem can be appointed in cases where amicable decision-making is impossible.
St. Louis Divorce Attorneys
Our team of experienced divorce attorneys and aides assist our clients with these difficult decisions and help them choose the most relevant grounds for their case. Amid so much emotional upheaval, it can be difficult for the petitioner to face these choices. Our team of considerate attorneys will be there to help see you through these rough times.
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