Guardian ad Litem
In addition to her traditional family law practice, Max serves as a Guardian ad Litem in contested custody cases. A Guardian ad Litem is an advocate appointed by the Court to represent the best interests of the child. The Guardian ad Litem serves as the Court’s witness rather than as counsel for the child, the difference being that the Guardian ad Litem reports to the Court on what is in the child’s best interests rather than simply advocating for what the child wants. Guardian ad Litems are not appointed in every custody case, and some Courts chose to only appoint them in highly contested cases or cases where there are serious concerns such as child abuse or substance abuse.
Investigation and Report
To determine the best interests of the child, the Guardian ad Litem conducts an investigation into the child’s life and what custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests. The investigation may include home visits to each parent’s home, visits to the child’s school, review of medical, educational, financial, and other records of the parents or child, and interviews with the parents, the child, witnesses suggested by each parent, and witnesses independently selected by the Guardian ad Litem.
After conducting his or her investigation, the Guardian ad Litem often gives a verbal recommendation to the parties or their attorneys to help facilitate settlement and is available to participate in settlement negotiations regarding the child. If the parties do not settle, the Guardian ad Litem writes a report that details his or her recommendation and investigation supporting the recommendation. The Guardian ad Litem is available to testify to these issues at trial as well. While Courts are not required to accept the recommendation of the Guardian ad Litem, Courts often do accept the recommendation because the Guardian ad Litem has had the opportunity to do research outside of Court, while the Court has limited information based on the evidence the parties present at trial.
The Firm’s Guardian ad Litem Experience
Shortly after beginning her career in family law, Max became trained as a Guardian ad Litem so that she could help children end up in the best possible custody arrangements. After working as a Guardian ad Litem, Max discovered that she particularly enjoys the investigative nature of Guardian ad Litem work, which is more flexible than the investigative options available when representing one party. Although Max strives to help parties settle based on her oral recommendations, she has testified in cases that remain contested through trial.
Max uses her background in domestic violence and as a family law attorney to help guide her investigations and make the best recommendation for the child. Having also volunteered in classrooms with students of all ages, Max is able to get children to feel comfortable with and open up to her. Since each case and each child is unique, Max tailors her investigations and reevaluates her approach as each step reveals more information. Max is aware that parties in litigation are often already incurring significant expense and strives to make her investigations as cost effective as possible.
Max’s experience as a Guardian ad Litem also helps her to be a better advocate when she is representing parents, both since the Guardian ad Litem role forces her to evaluate cases in a more neutral light, which helps in analyzing her other cases, and because it has shown her how attorneys representing parents can most effectively present their client’s case to the Guardian ad Litem.
Seeking Legal Help
The Ruthenberg-Marshall Law Firm can help you in seeking either primary custody or parenting time and can advise you on what parenting time schedule you should pursue given the facts of your case.
For help with your custody action, you can schedule a Legal Clarity Session with The Ruthenberg-Marshall Law Firm by calling 678-435-9069 or contacting us here.