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Should My Child Have a Guardian Ad Litem in My Divorce?

 Posted on July 09, 2024 in Child Custody

Dane County, WI child custody lawyerDivorces often become more complicated when a child is involved. Not only can it affect financial decisions, but parents will also be tasked with reaching settlements on child custody and child support. If they do not, a court will issue orders on those matters as well based on what is in the child’s best interests.

Sometimes, however, the child’s best interests are not apparent. In that case, a court will likely appoint an attorney to advocate for the child throughout the divorce process. This attorney is called a guardian ad litem, which is Latin for "guardian for the lawsuit." He or she is a neutral party whose job it is to determine what is best for the child’s welfare.

This article will discuss what a guardian ad litem does and when one is appointed. Consult a Wisconsin child custody attorney if you think your child may benefit from a guardian ad litem.

What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?

To determine what is in a child’s best interests, a guardian ad litem will conduct an investigation by:

  • Interviewing the child

  • Interviewing the child’s parents or guardians

  • Reviewing any reports of abuse or neglect

  • Reviewing any mediation settlements

  • Reviewing the parenting plan, which is a document that contains provisions for how the parents will raise the child after the divorce

  • Ordering psychological evaluations of the child or parents, as necessary

Once the guardian ad litem has done a thorough investigation, he or she will make recommendations to the court about legal custody, physical custody (also known as placement in Wisconsin), paternity issues, and child support. While courts are not required to follow a guardian ad litem’s recommendations, they take their advice seriously.

When Do Courts Appoint Guardians Ad Litem?

Any time a judge has a question about what is best for the child, he or she can appoint a guardian ad litem. This includes cases where:

  • The parents disagree about legal custody and physical placement.

  • The child has special needs.

  • Someone other than the child’s parents has custody or placement of the child, like if the child was adopted or lives in foster care.

  • It is not conclusively known who the child’s father is.

  • The parents disagree on making decisions about the child’s health, education, or religious upbringing.

  • There have been reported incidents of abuse or neglect.

  • Either parent is disabled in a way that affects his or her ability to care for the child.

Keep in mind that whether a guardian ad litem is appointed to a case by a court or because a parent requests the services of a guardian ad litem, one or both parents will be required to pay the guardian ad litem’s fees.

Contact a Dane County, WI Child Custody Attorney

If you think your child may benefit from being represented by a guardian ad litem, discuss with your attorney whether you should file a request with the court to appoint one. At John T. Fields & Associates, LLC, our attorneys are ready to aggressively defend your and your child’s best interests throughout the divorce and we have years of experience working with guardians ad litem. Call 608-729-3590 to speak with a Madison, WI child custody lawyer today.

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