Rhode Island prioritizes protecting children during divorce proceedings, and appointing a guardian ad litem (GAL) is one way the courts accomplish this. If you’re going through a divorce and want to make decisions on support, custody, and visitation without putting your child through undue stress, it’s important you know what a GAL is and how having one appointed may assist your whole family.
What a Guardian Ad Litem Does
A GAL is often a lawyer or a mental health professional appointed by the court to investigate and report on the best interests of the child. In doing this, a GAL must:
- Investigate the truth. To determine who may be more fit to raise the child, the GAL does research and conducts interviews into the lives of the parents and environments they’ll provide for the child. Commonly, a GAL will speak with coworkers, neighbors, friends, and family members. Additionally, a GAL will conduct home visits.
- Protect the child. If during the course of an investigation the GAL fears the child is in danger emotionally or physically, he makes motions with the court to keep the child safe.
- Communicate with the child. Part of determining the child’s best interests includes speaking with the child at length to understand her point of view. Additionally, the GAL explains these events to the child in a way she can understand.
- Communicate with the court. Since the GAL is a representative for the child, he relays information to the court to enlighten the decision-making process that will occur. Additionally, the GAL speaks for the child in trial and other court proceedings.
Defining a Child’s Best Interests
The best interests of a child can mean different things to different people, so the law provides criteria for the GAL to work by. According to Virginia law, the best interests of a child include:
- The child’s physical and emotional safety
- The child’s education
- The child’s healthcare
- The child’s moral upbringing
- The child’s wishes, if she is at a sufficient level of understanding
- The child’s close relationships
Our Firm Is Here for Your Family
If you and your family are having difficulty making custody and support decisions, you may have some questions about the appointment of a GAL. The team at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum can answer your questions and even represent your child’s best interests in court. To start a dialogue with us, fill out the online contact form on our website today.