If you have a guardian ad litem involved in your custody case, you may have questions about their role in North Carolina. A custody case may become extremely contentious, and sometimes the child’s interests can get forgotten as the parents take their dispute to court. A guardian ad litem steps in as a representative looking out for the child’s wellbeing.
What Is a Guardian Ad Litem in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, a guardian ad litem is a trained volunteer appointed by a court to advocate for a child’s best interests. The guardian ad litem, or GAL, “serves as an important voice for the child.” GALs are often attorneys, though they do not have to be. These representatives must receive training and are appointed by a judge to represent a child, although they work on a volunteer basis.
In the context of a custody case, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a child. Sometimes this happens when parents are in a particularly difficult or contentious custody battle. They are also appointed often when there are allegations of abuse or neglect related to the child. A GAL can look out for a child who may be stuck in the middle of arguing parents. If your custody case involves a guardian ad litem, you may have questions about the GAL’s role.
A Guardian Ad Litem’s Responsibilities
North Carolina law gives GALs certain responsibilities as they represent children in court. The responsibilities include:
- Conducting an investigation
- Reporting to the court
- Questioning witnesses at a hearing or participating in settlement discussions
- Helping the child access appropriate resources
- Monitoring the child after the court makes an order
A guardian ad litem’s investigation may involve talking to family members such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, as well as friends or caregivers. The GAL will talk to the child about the custody situation and will look for insight into the child’s life. In order to understand what might be in the child’s best interests, the GAL needs to learn about the child’s current circumstances.
When the court appoints a GAL, the judge expects to hear back from him or her about the results of the investigation. A guardian ad litem may discuss the investigation at a child custody hearing. He or she is permitted to call and question witnesses related to the child’s best interests. In addition, a GAL can be involved in mediation or other out-of-court discussions between the parents regarding child custody.
Other guardian ad litem responsibilities include helping a child access appropriate resources and following up after a court order is entered. For example, a GAL might contact state or local agencies to get information for the child on programs that could help him or her. In addition, the GAL might check in with the child as time passes after the judge’s ruling to make sure that the order is being obeyed by the parents.
Your Child Custody Case and GAL Involvement
If you are going through a child custody case, you may wonder how a guardian ad litem’s involvement will affect the outcome. Keep in mind that the court appoints a GAL to protect your child’s best interests. Personal feelings about a spouse or a custody case often cloud our judgment. The purpose of a GAL is to keep the child’s well-being at the forefront of the custody decisions. If there is domestic violence or neglect involved, the GAL is especially important for your child.
It’s a good idea to find a child custody lawyer to help during your custody proceeding. Your lawyer can advise you on presenting the best case possible for custody of your child. When your relationship with your child is at stake, seek out quality legal representation so you understand your rights.
Bring Your Custody Questions to New Direction Family Law
Dealing with a custody case can leave you with many questions. If you need legal help, the team at New Direction Family Law is here for you. Our North Carolina custody attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals with decades of combined legal experience. We have the resources you need to understand your legal rights, and we will work hard toward your best outcome. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.