We can provide the compassion you need for cases involving a Guardian ad Litem in South Carolina.
In cases involving child custody, the Court will usually appoint a Guardian ad Litem to protect the interests of any minor children. The Guardian ad Litem will be paid on an hourly basis for all time spent working on the case, and the Court will establish (a) the retainer amount, (b) his/her hourly rate, and (b) what percentage will be paid by each party. The Guardian ad Litem's role is investigate the allegations made by each party, interview the child and other relevant witnesses, and advocate for the best interest of the child at any hearings. The Guardian ad Litem is prohibited from making any specific recommendations to the Court (unless asked by the Court to do so, which very rarely occurs). However, if the Guardian ad Litem is skilled, his/her actions throughout the course of a case can have a significant impact on its outcome.
Jenny Stevens explains what you can expect if she has been appointed as the Guardian ad Litem in your custody case:
Typically when the Court appoints me as a GAL in a contested custody case, I am notified of the appointment by one or both of the attorneys in the case. Once I receive your specific case information and your contact information, my office will mail you a letter detailing the GAL interview and investigation process.
This letter will include an Initial Parent Questionnaire for you to complete and return to me as soon as possible. The questionnaire is extensive and allows you the opportunity to provide me with the details of your marriage/relationship, the child or children involved, and any concerns or issues you feel deserve my attention throughout the case.
Next, my office will schedule a convenient time for you to come in for an initial interview. I schedule these interviews for ninety (90) minutes, but in extreme or very complex cases, this may be extended. Each parent will be scheduled for his or her own private interview. Childcare arrangements should be made for these appointments as these interviews will cover many topics that cannot be discussed in the presence of children.
Once I have had the opportunity to meet with both parents individually, I will schedule a time to meet the child or children at a time or times most convenient to their schedules. This meeting may or may not be in the home, depending on the situation.
In all cases, I will schedule at least one home visit to observe the children in the home of each parent. Every case is different and some cases may require that I interview teachers, pediatricians, psychologists, therapists, coaches, neighbors, or other family members about the children or any issue that affects the children.
As your case progesses, I will be asked to produce a report, or sometimes, several reports for the Court. This report will be provided to you through your attorney prior to your final hearing or trial. In private actions, the GAL is not allowed to provide specific recommendations for custody unless asked to do so by the Court, so the report will introduce your children to the Court and outline my investigation and note any issues or facts that may need to be considered by the Court in a final ruling.
What exactly does “best interests of the child” mean?
Black's Law Dictionary defines Best Interests of the Child as:
“A standard by which a court determines what arrangements would be to a child's greatest benefit, often used in deciding child-custody and visitation matters and in deciding whether to approve an adoption or a guardianship.”