Child custody battles are difficult, especially when the parents are also going through a divorce proceeding. Utah family courts recognize that decisions regarding custody and visitation should always put the child’s best interests in mind. However, this can be difficult to do when both parents have different ideas of what’s best for their child. That’s why a neutral third party, called the guardian ad litem, is hired to represent the best interests of your child in a child custody case.
What is a private guardian ad litem?
In family court, a guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney appointed by the court to be an independent investigator who can propose solutions that would be in the best interest of the child. If the court-appointed attorney’s recommendation is in conflict with the child’s wishes, then the GAL has to represent both their recommendations and the child’s wishes.
How is a private guardian ad litem appointed?
A private guardian ad litem will be appointed by the court from a list of eligible family law attorneys. Unless both parties stipulate a particular attorney, the private GAL appointed to represent your child’s interests depends on the luck of the draw. While they’re from a list of eligible attorneys, it’s possible that the court-appointed GAL may not be as experienced in litigation or familiar with child custody laws as you’d like.
Instead, both parties can agree to appoint a particular attorney to be the private guardian ad litem for your child. Since you’ll both be paying for the attorney fees, it’s best to appoint an attorney from a trustworthy law firm to be your child’s private guardian ad litem.
Who’s going to pay for the private guardian ad litem?
In Utah, both parties are responsible for paying the attorney fees to the private GAL, with most having hourly rates. While both parents pay for the private GAL, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the costs are shared equally. In most cases, the family court determines how costs are allocated.
What are the obligations of a private GAL?
According to family laws, a guardian ad litem in Utah is obligated to:
- Represent the best interests of the child.
- Conduct independent investigation to have a clear understanding of the child’s situation and needs.
- Conduct witness interviews and evaluate records related to the child and their family.
- Personally meet and interview the child, if no statutory exceptions apply.
- Determine the child’s goals and concerns about custody and visitation.
- Keep the child advised on what’s happening in their case.
- Attend hearing and conferences, and present witnesses and exhibits, to protect the best interests of the child.
- Identify and advocate for community resources that protect the child’s best interest.
- Participate in all appeals unless excused by the court.
If you’re looking for a private guardian ad litem to protect your child’s best interest, we offer legal services for private guardians ad litem. At Utah Child Custody, we can help you protect what matters most. Contact us and take control of your family’s legal affairs today!