In an Oklahoma contested child custody case a Guardian Ad Litem Is often ordered by the family court. Whether you and your child’s other parent are separating, divorcing, or your unwedded romantic relationship is ending, you may need to consider formalizing a child custody arrangement. Some co-parents agree on most issues about their children, while others might spend years in high-conflict situations. Parents whose values and priorities are at odds may require the services of a guardian ad litem, or “GAL.” GALs can play significant roles in custody disputes. They are placed in a position to provide their opinions about which parent the child should live with, where the child will attend school, religious upbringing, and other significant issues that can impact high-stress parenting relationships.
The Role Of A Guardian Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem represents a child’s interests in custody cases and juvenile court. They are often called upon to become involved in family and juvenile cases under three primary circumstances:
- Allegations of one parent’s abuse or neglect toward a child
- Severe parental conflict
- The child is unable to speak for themselves (due to young age or disability)
GALs do not represent or advocate for the interests of either parent. Instead, their role is to determine the best interests of the children of the relationship. Under Oklahoma’s Care and Custody of Children statute, courts must resolve contentious custody matters by assessing a child’s best interest factors and making custody recomendations. These factors may include the following:
- The child’s age
- The child’s preference (if they are old enough to express a preference adequately)
- Either parent’s ability to care for the child’s physical and emotional needs
- Parental unfitness
A GAL considers these factors from a child’s perspective and presents their opinion to the court. Although the courts ultimately render final determinations in custody disputes, a GAL’s report and opinions can heavily impact the outcome of a child custody case.
How Does This Help in A Custody Case?
Guardians ad litem are appointed by the courts. If a GAL is appointed to advise in your case, they will thoroughly investigate your child’s life. This investigation may take several months. The GAL will interview the child, individuals who play a significant role in their life, and even individuals who have meaningful relationships with their parents. During these interviews, the GAL will assess information about the child’s schooling, religious upbringing, physical and emotional needs, personal information about each parent, and the role of each parent in the child’s life. The results of these interviews and additional information collected will help the GAL form their opinion about contentious legal and physical custody issues.
Who Can Be A Guardian Ad Litem?
Often, GALs are attorneys. However, any person with the proper training and experience can serve as a GAL. Social workers and other mental health professionals often serve in this capacity. In some cases, a child may have two individuals appointed to represent their interests: one to serve as a GAL and the other to serve as an attorney. Although GALs do not provide legal advice, they must have a solid understanding of family and juvenile law, as well as behavioral psychology. A strong background in these areas can help a GAL predict the potential impacts a particular custodial arrangement will have on a child.
More Helpful Articles From Our Tulsa Lawyers Blog
Tulsa Child Custody Lawyers In Your Corner
If you are facing a highly contested child custody case you are not alone. Its very common for parents to argue over custody of their kids. From initial disagreements over joint or sole custody to more complicated situations that involve risk of harm to the children and emergency custody picking the right Guardian Ad Litem is an option you may be confronting. Our Tulsa custody lawyers have handled countless cases with all sorts of different fact patterns. This experience is what helps you get what works best for you and your child. Contact Kania Law Office for a free and confidential consultation. Call 918.743.2233 or click here to ask a legal question.