Knowing what to expect enables you to prepare
While some divorces are amicable, contentious divorces are common, and the implications for minor children involved in proceedings can be profound. To ensure a child's well-being is protected throughout, the court has the right to appoint what's known as a Guardian Ad Litem to look out for their interests. In Wisconsin, the Guardian Ad Litem will be a court-appointed attorney to represent your children’s best interests.
The Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL, is a neutral party in the proceedings who is responsible for conducting an investigation and forging a recommendation for the court on any contested child-related issues including custody, placement and parenting time. Either party in a divorce case can request to have a Guardian Ad Litem assigned. Having a GAL can help reduce court fees and the number of hearings needed if both parties agree to follow the recommendation put forth by the GAL.
Questions a Guardian Ad Litem might ask
Preparing for the questions a Guardian Ad Litem might ask during their investigation can be helpful. It's important to note that every GAL has their own approach to the investigation, but overall, you will want to plan to provide in-depth details about your relationship with your former partner as well as their relationship with your children. Here are some specific questions you may be asked by a GAL.
- Describe your history with your former partner.
- How do you characterize your parenting style, and how does it differ from that of your former partner?
- What will your former partner say about you?
- Walk me through your child's or children's daily routines.
- What preceded this contested custody litigation?
- What has been the arrangement for the child's placement historically?
- Describe the roles you and your former partner have had in raising the children.
- Where will you live once the divorce is final?
- In your mind, how will the children be transported between the two of you?
- Can you support the other parent’s role in your child’s life?
- Is there a history of substance abuse?
- Has your spouse had trouble with the law?
- Is there a history of domestic violence, and if so, do you have records of it?
- Is mental health a concern, or has it been historically?
- What is your profession and how does it impact your ability to care for the children?
- Describe your support system and who will help you with the children when you need it.
As you can see from these questions, a Guardian Ad Litem may want you to go into detail about your past relationship with your spouse, as well as your vision for the future. Throughout your interactions with the GAL, it's best if you stick to the facts of the situation and allow the GAL to draw their own determination about your spouse's character and ability to care for the children. Remember, the GAL is an objective party who looks out for your child's best interests.
A trusted attorney can help you prep for your discussion with a Guardian Ad Litem
As with all aspects of a contentious divorce and child custody fight, working with a Guardian Ad Litem conducting an investigation can be challenging. Having the right legal experts on your side, looking out for your interests as well as your children’s interests and advocating for your needs, is essential to laying the groundwork for the path ahead. When it's time to start thinking about your next chapter, our Holmen and La Crosse attorneys are here to guide you through the legal battle ahead, including your interaction with a Guardian Ad Litem. Contact us to learn more about your options for legal representation for your divorce and custody proceedings.