The South Carolina family court appoints a guardian ad litem in child custody cases where there is a dispute between the parents. The guardian ad litem is usually appointed at the outset of the case, but if at any point in time the court decides that the child or children involved in the case require a guardian ad litem, one shall be appointed. The guardian ad litem steps into an advocate role for the child he or she is representing and is charged with representing the best interests of the child. Guardian ad litems are provided for under S.C. Code Annotated Section 63-3-810, et. seq.
The Purpose of A Guardian Ad Litem
Investigative and Reporting Role. The guardian ad litem serves an important function in child custody cases by helping the family court come to a decision concerning the custody of a child in question. In order to do this, the guardian ad litem will thoroughly investigate the child’s living situation and/or prospective living situation, will interview the child’s parents and the child, and will review records (school, medical, court records and filings, etc.). Based on all of the relevant information gathered by the guardian ad litem, he or she will provide a report and a recommendation for the court concerning the child’s best interests.
The recommendation is often based on a number of factors, which can include any combination or all of the following considerations:
- The wishes of the respective parents
- The physical and mental health of the respective parents
- The wishes of the child
- Whether the child has any special needs and which parent can best provide for those needs;
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The ability of the parents to communicate and/or their willingness to work together concerning the child custody
- The access the child would have to established patterns and support structures in the prospective custody arrangement (i.e., will the child be able to attend the same school if placed with the father, or will the child be separated from all of their friends if placed with the mother, etc.)
- Whether there are any concerns about substance abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or psychological abuse
Provider of Explanation. Another important job that the guardian ad litem has involves explaining to the child involved, if appropriate, what is going on with the child custody proceeding. This explanation should be age appropriate, and can cover things like what each person involved in the proceeding does (judge, lawyers, the guardian, etc.), how to proceeding works, and what happens next. The guardian ad litem should also explain how he or she is acting on behalf of the child.
When You Need A Charleston Child Custody Lawyer
Child custody is a tough issue to deal with, as any parent would want to spend as much time as possible with their child. When you need a South Carolina child custody lawyer, the family law attorneys at McCoy & Stokes are on your side. Contact us today and see how we can help you.