29 Mar The Role of SC Guardian ad litems in Custody Cases
In custody cases where there is a contest regarding minor children in South Carolina, a judge will typically appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”). The role of SC guardian ad litems is to help the judge evaluate what is in the best interest of the minor child or children. As a parent in a custody case, it is important for you to understand the function of GALs in your case.
The Reasoning Behind Appointing a Guardian Ad Litem
It is easiest to understand the basis for appointing a GAL by looking at the relevant statute. Specifically, South Carolina family courts will evaluate what is in the “best interests of the child” when making custody determinations. South Carolina law (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-240(B)) outlines several factors courts should look at to guide their determinations, including:
- Personality, behavior, and preferences of the minor child
- Any past or current interactions between parents and their child
- Any behavior and actions parents take to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent
- Any negative behavior and actions parents take that disparages the other parent in front of the minor child
- The adjustment of the minor child to the respective parent’s schools, home, and overall community
- The stability of the parents’ respective residences
GALs can help family law judges evaluate each of these factors on a closer level by observing the minor child and each parent.
What Happens When a GAL is Appointed?
Once an SC guardian ad litem is appointed, there are several steps they will typically take:
- Initial Interviews. To begin, GALs will usually meet with each parent to discuss their relationship with their child. A GAL specifically will talk about the parents’ prior involvement with the children’s education, extracurricular activities, and health care decisions. A GAL may also ask parents for records pertaining to the child.
- Home Visits and Observations. The GAL will likely visit each parent’s home to observe the child’s interaction with the parents and their interaction with their home environment. In particular, a GAL will note the behavior of parents toward the child—specifically their parenting styles and values.
- Interviews with Other Key Individuals. During the initial interview, a GAL will typically ask the parent for names of specific individuals that have a major role in the child’s life. This includes teachers, daycare providers, close relatives, or coaches. Speaking to other individuals can help give a GAL a different perspective to understand what is best for your child.
Get Help From an Experienced South Carolina Custody Attorney
Undergoing interviews and evaluations by guardian ad litems in a South Carolina custody case can be a stressful and emotional process. To help make sure you are taking the best steps and have your interests fully represented, you should hire the experienced Mount Pleasant family law attorneys at Klok Law Firm LLC. Our family law attorneys can help you prepare for meetings with GALs and any records they may need.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.