South Carolina Guardian ad Litem Attorneys
When children are involved in any family or criminal case, it’s easy for them to become conflicted and overwhelmed. When this happens, the line between the desires of an adult and what the child needs and wants can become blurred.
In South Carolina child custody cases, as well as in child abuse and neglect cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child. Specifically, the term means “guardian for the suit,” and the process emphasizes South Carolina’s long standing commitment to doing what is best for the child in every case.
The South Carolina family law and divorce attorneys at The Cate Law Firm have experience both serving as a guardian ad litem and working with a guardian ad litem in various family law matters. Our knowledgeable and compassionate South Carolina family law attorneys can act as a guardian ad litem at the request of either of the parties to a dispute or at the request of the court.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
The state of South Carolina considers a minor to be anyone under the age of 18, but the “age of majority” varies within the state. This is the age at which a person gains the responsibilities and rights associated with being an adult. Prior to reaching that age, a parent is responsible for providing their children with such things as food, shelter, and access to education.
While many children look forward to adulthood and being on their own, few recognize the responsibility involved in maintaining a home and providing for their own basic needs. Both children and some adults that have special needs don’t have the capacity to appreciate what is in their best interests. In family law matters, the courts will step in to help them do that.
South Carolina’s Guardian Ad Litem Program was established as a means of protecting children in the state from abuse and neglect. The state’s guardian ad litem program is only activated in cases involving child abuse or neglect, and the agency will work with both the courts and social agencies to make decisions that are in the child’s best interests.
A private guardian ad litem is different from the state-sponsored program. In a contested divorce or custody case, the court might use a private guardian ad litem to help the judge decide what is truly in the best interests of the child. Article 7 of the South Carolina Children’s Code provides that a private guardian ad litem may be either a lawyer or a layperson. In neglect cases, a guardian will be appointed regardless of the parent’s wishes. In a divorce or custody case, either parent can request that a guardian be appointed, or the court can do this on its own.
Why Have a Guardian Ad Litem?
Many parents believe that they know what is best for their children, but divorce and custody battles tend to bring out the worst in even the best of us. When parents are unable to put their wants, and needs aside or can’t agree on what is best for a child, it can be helpful to have a third party involved that is looking out for the best interests of the child.
When a guardian ad litem is involved in your case, they act as a neutral voice between two opposing sides in a custody dispute. It’s important to remember that, even though they may be an attorney, the guardian doesn’t represent either parent. Their report and findings might favor one parent or another, but only because they are recommending what they feel is best for the welfare of the child.
The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem
The term “guardian” may be somewhat misleading because a guardian ad litem will not be responsible for your child’s care, upbringing, or finances. A guardian ad litem’s primary function is to represent your child’s best interests during a legal case.
The court will rely on the guardian ad litem’s report and findings, which usually includes new information and evidence that will help with a case decision. The guardian ad litem will also advocate for the child’s best interests by:
- Recommending specific actions that will benefit the child
- Making legal motions involving visitation and custody rights of parents
- Make decisions about the need for counseling, medical evaluations, or psychological evaluations
- Gather evidence by obtaining school records, criminal and medical records, and other necessary documents
- Work with attorneys and courts on important decisions by offering testimony and examining witnesses in court
- Moving to restrain rights of a parent if the guardian believes they might be a danger to the child
- Seeking enforcement of existing court orders
- Provide support to the child’s legal and emotional needs
The Guardian Ad Litem Investigation
When a guardian ad litem is appointed by the court, they will contact all of the parties involved in the case and let them know that they are beginning their investigation. According to state law, the guardian must complete an “independent, impartial and balanced investigation.” In the course of this investigation, the guardian will likely:
- Visit the child at home
- Interview the child at least once
- Interview parents, teachers, and any other caregivers
- Review school and medical records
- Depending on the child’s age and maturity level, consider the child’s wishes
The guardian ad litem is required to submit comprehensive written reports to the court and all parties. They are not, however, supposed to make specific custody recommendations unless the court requests this and gives a reason for the request.
Contact an Experience South Carolina Family Law Attorney
If you and your spouse are considering divorce or a change in custody and visitation arrangements, there’s a good possibility that a guardian ad litem will be appointed if you can’t agree on terms. The experienced and compassionate South Carolina family law attorneys at The Cate Law Firm are adept at dealing with child custody and guardian ad litem cases. Our family law experience continues to assist clients in obtaining favorable results that are truly in the bests interests of the child. Call us today at (864) 585-4226 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our dedicated family law attorneys.