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Guardian ad litem: Who’s qualified and why the role matters

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2023 | Custody, Divorce |

A parent’s mission as the natural guardian is to wrap their child with unconditional love. But a contentious divorce often catches them off guard, potentially leaving their child vulnerable.

Substantial conflicts may result in parents lingering on their combative mindset and losing sight of their parental obligations. South Carolina courts recognize that addressing significant disagreements, especially with custody issues, requires a well-informed decision. Thus, with both parents’ consent and absolute discretion, the state appoints a guardian ad litem (GAL) whose job is to represent the child and their best interests during the divorce.

It is then critical that the individual assuming this role understands the gravity of their tasks.

GAL qualifications

As the child’s advocate, a GAL may be a lawyer or an impartial person meeting the following criteria:

  • 25 years or older
  • No prior criminal conviction
  • No records or history of abuse and neglect
  • With or something equal to a high school diploma
  • Unless waived by the court, completion of six hours minimum of approved continuing family law education, specifically in custody and visitation, and other training courses every year

A GAL may also receive a reasonable and court-approved and -reviewed compensation. The fee may vary depending on relevant factors, such as time spent working on complex GAL duties and the financial capacity of both parents.

GAL responsibilities

A GAL’s primary responsibility is to gather pertinent information that may help the court move the case forward. To accomplish this, a GAL:

  • Occasionally meets with the child
  • Reviews the child’s school and medical records
  • Checks the child’s living situation through home visits
  • Conducts interviews with both parents, school authorities and other parties knowledgeable about the child
  • Attends court hearings

A GAL must also submit and present a written report to both parents and the court containing conclusions based on facts and findings. Also, unless requested by the court, they cannot recommend which parent should receive custody.

A constructive and stable presence

Ultimately, a GAL looks out for your child. Their presence must add value to your child’s coping experience during these challenging times in your family. But if you have enough reason to believe they’re not fulfilling their role, you may consult your legal representative about filing a complaint or any other course of action you may take moving forward.