3 Affordable Ways to Assist the Guardian ad Litem in Your Intense Custody Case
Written by: Megan Dell
As detailed in S.C. Code Ann. Section 63-3-810(A), the Family Court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem (sometimes referred to as a “GAL”) in any action in which custody or visitation of a minor child is at issue if the Court will likely not be fully informed about the facts of the case and there is a substantial dispute between the parties or if the parties consent to such an appointment.
What Does A Guardian ad Litem Do?
S.C. Code Ann. Section 63-3-830 details the Guardian ad Litem‘s responsibilities.
- Representing the best interest of the child;
- Conducting an independent, balanced, and impartial investigation to determine the facts relevant to the situation of the child and family, including:
- Obtaining and review documents (such as school records and medical records)
- Meeting with the child at least one time;
- Visiting the relevant home settings, if deemed appropriate;
- Interviewing parents, caregivers, school officials, law enforcement, and others with knowledge relevant to the case;
- Considering the wishes of the child, if appropriate;
- Advocating for the child’s best interests by making specific and clear suggestions, such as for evaluation, services, and/or treatment for the child and/or family;
- Attending all hearings related to custody and/or visitation and providing current, relevant information directly to the court;
- Maintaining a complete file; and
- Presenting clear and comprehensive report(s).
Who Pays the Fees?
In private Family Court cases involving custody or visitation, the parties are responsible for paying the GAL. Family Court typically divides the fees between the parties, taking the parties’ respective financial positions into account.
Generally, the allocation of the fees incurred by the Guardian ad Litem can be revisited at a final hearing or trial.
3 Ways to Minimize How Much You Pay the Guardian ad Litem
- If the Guardian ad Litem asks you for information, promptly provide it. They are required to conduct their investigation, and if you delay it, then they just have to work harder (and charge you more money!). Likewise, if any of your contact information – address, phone number, or email address – changes, provide the updated information to their office immediately to ensure you receive communications from them.
- Keep your communications brief, informative, and fact-based. The less emotional you can be when reporting information to the Guardian ad Litem, the better. They do not need to know about every interaction between you and the other parent or receive constant updates from you. If you are represented by a lawyer in your custody case, then you should check with them before sending information to the Guardian ad Litem.
- Realize the Guardian ad Litem may not focus on issues you want them to because they are required to be an independent investigator, and he or she will have a different perspective than you do. You should definitely explain your concern to the Guardian ad Litem and provide any documents corroborating your position, but do not repeatedly contact them with the same information. That kind of repetition only serves to increase the amount you are charged.
How A Lawyer Can Help You Work with the Guardian ad Litem
Experienced Family Court lawyers work with GALs constantly and can help you streamline the type of information, and how much of it, you provide the Guardian ad Litem appointed in your case.