In Georgia, the court hearing a child custody case has the power to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child's interests and express those interests to the court. This article answers a couple of common questions about guardians ad litem in Georgia. For more information about Georgia divorce law, see our Georgia Divorce and Family Law page.
A guardian ad litem is someone (usually an attorney) appointed by the Court to represent the child in a legal dispute concerning the child's custody or welfare. The guardian represents neither parent in the dispute, but instead represents the best interest of the child. Many people wonder why a court would think that the parties (usually parents of the child) would not have the concerns of the child in mind. However, in many cases, the parties to the case are so wrapped up in his/her own problems or needs that they fail to see the situation from the perspective of the child. The court appoints the guardian to have reasoned advice from someone who does not owe any allegiance to either party. The guardian can be objective in investigating and recommending the best outcome for the child.
A guardian ad litem has the authority to investigate the entire background, living conditions, and family relationships of the child, along with any related matters, in order to make a recommendation to the court. The guardian can make home visits and speak with anyone in person, by phone, or any other method of communication. The guardian can also, with the court's help, subpoena witnesses to testify and to appear in court.
The guardian uses this information to recommend the placement, visitation, custody, or other arrangement that would be in the best interests of the child. The guardian usually makes a report to the court recommending a specific outcome. The parties do not have to accept the report, but can present their own witnesses and evidence in court. The judge makes the final determination on these issues. However, the guardian's report, if presented to the parties prior to trial, can sometimes lead the parents to decide to settle these issues rather than continue on to trial.