What Is a Guardian ad Litem?
In deciding all divorce issues affecting your children, the family court applies a single, all-important standard: “the best interests of the child.” But how does the court know what is in your child’s best interest? In tough custody battles, parents often have conflicting notions of what’s best for their child. They present the court with very different impressions of who the child is, what interests and talents the child has, and the child’s physical and emotional needs. Faced with competing versions of the truth, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem, an attorney to represent the child. In Utah, a Guardian ad Litem is private, meaning you and the other parent have to pay the fees of the Guardian ad Litem. You each pay hafl of the cost. This can get expensive if matters are hotly contested.
Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem is meant to protect the interests of a child who is a subject of the dispute between the parents, but not a party to the divorce action. As such, the Guardian ad Litem acts as an advisor to and advocate for the child. For this reason, courts generally only appoint Guardian ad Litems in custody actions where it is appropriate to ask the child’s preference.
The Guardian ad Litem is charged with assessing whether the child has an impairment that prevents him or her from making knowledgeable, voluntary and considered judgments. If in the Guardian ad Litem’s opinion the child is unimpaired, the Guardian ad Litem will report the child’s stated preferences. The Guardian ad Litem is not a witness but may call witnesses and cross-examine witnesses. The Guardian ad Litem does not present a written report to the court, but should present relevant evidence to the court that might otherwise not be presented. The Guardian ad Litem will also tell the judge if he or she believes custody should change or if there is any abuse.
Parents must always remember that the Guardian ad Litem is not their lawyer, so any communications are not considered confidential. Any statements a parent makes to the Guardian ad Litem can be used against them in the custody dispute.
How to Share Birthdays, Holidays with Joint Custody
If you are a parent in a shared custody arrangement after a divorce, birthdays and holidays can be especially difficult times. You may need to accept that your long-time rituals can no longer occur as they once did. However, there are still ways you can make these times of the year special and meaningful.
Below are some helpful tips:
- Have a plan: Communicate with your former partner and plan far in advance how you will share time for all the holidays in a year. It is common, for example, for spouses to trade off years in which they spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with their children. If you have large extended families with multiple holiday gatherings, you may be able to split time with each holiday in each year.
- Stick to the plan: Always follow through with your plan and the promises you make to your children and/or your former spouse. Hard feelings can arise whenever you break your word, especially as it relates to the holidays, which have a lot of sentiment surrounding them.
- Let kids have a say in the plan: Although your children should not have the final say in how your holiday plans will work, you can at least ask for their input as to when and where you will celebrate the holidays and who will be present. This will help teach your children about collaboration and compromise.
- Have multiple celebrations: For a birthday, for example, it can be easy to have two different celebrations — one at your home and one at the other parent’s home. This makes it easier for extended families to get involved.
Divorce Attorney Free Consultation
If you have a question about divorce law or if you need to start or defend against a divorce case in Utah call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506