Working With A Guardian Ad Litem
Working with a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in a Contested Custody Case in South Carolina.
In a contested child custody action, the Guardian ad Litem can play a pivotal role in the judge’s final decision regarding the status of the child or children involved. The responsibility of the Guardian is expressly delineated in the South Carolina Code of Laws § 63-3-830: it is to represent the best interests of the child or children involved. To that end, the Guardian is required to conduct an independent, balanced, and impartial investigation to determine the facts relevant to the situation of the child and the family.
Once a Guardian ad Litem is appointed, many family law attorneys take a “back seat” and trust that the Guardian will do their job. This can be a big mistake. When a Guardian is appointed, the parents involved in a South Carolina custody action have a unique opportunity help the GAL, and ultimately the Court, establish the course of action that is in the best interest of the children. It is important that the Guardian be given all relevant facts surrounding the child’s circumstances, both positive and negative. Being honest and straightforward goes a long way in establishing credibility and ultimately serving the child or children.
The key is understanding that the Guardian ad Litem will be concerned solely with the best interests of the child. The Guardian usually becomes involved when the litigation is already in progress and will generally know very little about the facts at first. The parties are expected to meet with and assist the Guardian in their investigation by providing all information requested. Parents can and should be proactive about providing additional information if it is relevant. Attempts to bias or inundate the GAL with information are not advised. Working closely with the GAL to provide a clear understanding of the situation, having the family’s honest, complete, and timely cooperation is essential to the Guardian fulfilling his or her statutory duties and will serve the best interests of children in a difficult situation.