Guardian Ad Litem
Georgia Guardian Ad Litem Lawyers
Sometimes, in custody cases, the court appoints an officer to help investigate the circumstances of the custody matter. This officer is called a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). Their assignment is to research the case and ultimately report back to the judge. The GAL can be appointed at the request of either party and has the sole duty of representing the child(ren)’s best interest.
At Hall & Navarro, we offer Guardian Ad Litem services to the court, and have worked on many cases where a GAL is requested.
If you are facing a custody case, let our family handle your family’s needs. Call the Georgia family lawyers at Hall & Navarro today to get started.
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What does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?
The GAL is responsible for investigating the child’s background, his or her living conditions, relationships with the family, and any other circumstances that should be considered. As part of their investigation, the GAL can visit the child(ren)’s home, subpoena witnesses to appear in court, and communicate with family members and friends of the child(ren).
This person will eventually make a recommendation as to custody, visitation, and co-parenting issues. They will also tell the court if they are able to substantiate any other allegations that have been made. At the end of the day, they will make a recommendation that is very important to your case.
Working with a Guardian Ad Litem
The first thing I tell my clients is to be honest with the Guardian Ad Litem appointed in with your matter. You need to comply with any requests they have, whether it’s visiting your home or taking a drug screen. Secondly, always maintain good contact with them and your attorney’s office. Keep in mind, too, that the GAL is a business connection, not a friend. Always be respectful of their role in the case.
Georgia Custody Cases with a Guardian Ad Litem
At Hall & Navarro, we understand how critical your child custody issue is. If you are facing a custody issue and have questions, please contact us for help. We handle hundreds of custody cases every year, and our attorneys have over 75 years of combined experience.
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More Child Custody Info
Primary, joint, split, and sole custody
There are four ways custody can typically turn out:
- Primary custody
- Joint custody
- Split custody
- Sole custody
If you get primary custody, you are going to be the parent who has the child most of the time. That might mean you have them just over half the time, all the way up to 100% of the time.
If you get joint custody, you are going to share the physical custody with the other parent. There will likely be equal time spent with each parent.
If you end up with split custody, that is sometimes a scenario when there are two or more children you had with the other parent. One person may be the custodial parent for at least one of the children, while the other has custody of the other children.
If you get sole custody, you are the permanent custodial parent of the child as per the court order.
Do grandparents have custody rights?
In Georgia, grandparents do not automatically have visitation or custody rights. The only way that grandparents can get custody or visitation rights in Georgia is if you can show that the children’s parents are unfit.
A grandparent has a hard time doing that a lot of times because one of the children is their child. It would require filing an action in the court to establish visitation or custody rights for the grandparent. You would have to certify that the parents are unable to parent the child, and that it would be in the child’s best interest for visitation or custody to be established into the grandparent.
There are times where grandparents would have an easier time getting visitation rights with their grandchildren. For instance, if you were the paternal grandparent, meaning that your son is the father of this child, and your son passes away in a car accident. Unfortunately, your daughter-in-law is not going to allow you to visit the children anymore. If there are facts where the daughter-in-law is withholding the child, not allowing telephone contact, not allowing holiday time or even present exchanges, then the judge will likely grant visitation to that grandparent.
In that same scenario, if you wanted custody of your grandchildren, you would still have to say that your daughter-in-law is unfit or unable to have custody of those children. The court may grant you custody based on whatever evidence comes out.
With the right facts and circumstances, grandparents can be successful in obtaining custody or visitation of their grandchildren.
Moving out of Georgia During a Custody Case
In Georgia, if you can move and not get in the way of the other party’s parenting time, then the court will allow you to leave with your child(ren); however, if you are interfering with the other parent’s parenting time or their ability to exercise their parenting time, the court’s going to consider that to be a change of circumstance. Depending on your facts around how you moved and your reason for moving, the court could change custody to the other parent and not allow you to take the children to leave and live with you in another state.
It is complicated because there are lots of different factors in everybody’s cases. It may even come down to what judge you have. In Georgia, so long as the children are residing here, the court ultimately has the authority to decide what is in their best interest during a custody case.
If you’re planning on moving, what I would say is make sure you’re giving the other party prompt notice, and that you’re evaluating whether your move is going to affect the children and affect their time with the other parent. Bring those facts and circumstances into our office. Let us look at that. Let us look at your prior court orders and determine whether you would need court approval to move, or whether you’ve met your burden of alerting the other parent and there may be an agreement for you to move.
Oftentimes, if you are moving out of state, there’s going to be some changes to your prior paperwork. Even if everyone is on the same page about you moving, you would want to make sure that you file the appropriate court case just to get the judge’s approval on any new parenting time and child support obligations that may change. Any move is probably going to deem a change of circumstances to the extent that a court is going to want to look at that in the modification action just to be safe and make sure the children and their best interests are being looked after.
Children Choosing Which Parent to Live With
In Georgia, children do have the option to express their desires to the court if they want to live with one parent or the other. Now, there are different levels of how the court will handle that child’s intentions.
Ultimately, until a child reaches 11 years old, what they want and where they want to live is not something the court is going to ask them upfront. That’s not to say that children that are younger than 11 don’t have an opinion or aren’t happy at one house rather than the other, but the court is not going to expose them to having to choose between one parent and the other.
After the child has turned 11, however, that child may then have an opinion as to where they want to live. The court’s going to take that just as a factor; it’s going to be one of the many factors that are outlined under Georgia law. The court doesn’t have to do what that child wants.
When a child reaches 14 years old, however, they gain more power. The court now will defer to the child’s wishes, unless the other party can prove that child’s wishes are not in their best interest. For example, let’s say you have a 14-year-old who wants to go live with the other parent just because they know they can get away with anything. In that instance, we would need to prove that the other parent is not going to discipline the child, or had never been involved in their schooling or medical care.
Under Georgia law, there are specific age requirements that allow the child to have their voice heard more and more as they get older. However, with the right evidence to back up a younger child’s wishes, we can do a better job describing to the court why they want to live with one parent rather than the other. We’ve been successful in having children’s voices heard without actually putting them in front of the judge or in an open courtroom.