Custody battles are one of the more complex, and emotionally fraught, processes in family law. It’s not uncommon for the parties to have widely divergent ideas of what does or does not constitute appropriate parenting. To put it lightly, the parties may not be in agreement about what’s in the best interests of the minor children.
This is highly problematic. After all, the standard for custody is the “best interests of the minor child.” If a court can’t determine what’s in the minor child’s best interests, how can it award custody?
Fortunately, custody battles are not reduced to he said-she said battles. Third parties are frequently brought in to help the court assist what is in the minor child’s best interests. This article will discuss third party attorneys that may be brought in to assist the court. These third party attorneys almost always fit into one of three categories: a child’s attorney, a child representative, and guardian ad litem.
An attorney for a minor child is as it sounds. An attorney is hired to represent a minor child’s best interests. Like other attorneys, a child’s attorney must listen and act upon his or her client’s wishes. Thus, while a child’s attorney will represent his or her client’s best interests, it will be the best interests as defined by the child. Child’s attorneys are rare. Children are not always the best equipped to determine what is and is not in their best interests and the process of evaluating as much is highly problematic. You can imagine that neither parent wants his or her child reading the claims of the other parent.
A child representative is an attorney who is hired to represent a minor child’s best interests. However, unlike a child’s attorney, the child representative represents the child’s best interests as defined by the child representative. The child representative is given the same investigative powers as a guardian ad litem, which is to say that the child representative will interview the child’s parents and other individuals in the child’s life. The child representative will also look into the safety and suitability of the child’s environment. The child representative does not issue a report to the court on his or her findings, but does provide the parties with a pre-trial memorandum of what he or she would advocate if the custody case goes to trial.
A guardian ad litem is an attorney who will conduct an investigation into the minor child’s best interests and provide a report to the court. The guardian ad litem will interview the child’s parents, investigate the suitability of the child’s home environment, and of course interview the child. The guardian ad litem will issue a report to the court following his or her investigation. The guardian ad litem may be called as a witness for purposes of cross-examination regarding the guardian ad litem’s report or recommendations.
Talk to your attorney about which third party attorney will be the most helpful in your case. As always, please feel free to contact my office with any questions you may have.