What is a Guardian Ad Litem? - Dennis B. Dahlberg
In Ohio, in a Domestic Relations Court, or in a Juvenile Court, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) can be appointed by the Court to protect and act in the best interests of a child. This is an attorney or another individual who has completed training under guidelines set by The Supreme Court of Ohio, to act as an appointed court officer to assist the court in its determination of a child’s best interest. The court will either appoint a Guardian ad Litem on its own or a party to the case can make a motion to have a hearing on whether a Guardian ad Litem should be appointed.
The Guardian ad Litem acts in the best interest of the child – this is not always consistent with what the child may want. The Guardian ad Litem is to maintain independence, objectivity and fairness, and be responsible for speaking with and advocating for the child. The Guardian ad Litem will attend and participate in court hearings, will research the case by speaking with and interviewing parties to the case, the child, and witnesses, and by reviewing other reports and information relevant to the case. The Guardian ad Litem monitors the case as it moves forward and may file various pleadings, motions, and reports when necessary.
In Ohio, a Guardian ad Litem is appointed to the case in a juvenile court under Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 2151, where the child is alleged to be abused, neglected or dependent, or in a delinquency case when there is a conflict between the child and the parent. The Guardian ad Litem may also be appointed in contested custody matters wherein a parent, relative, or another person has filed a traditional custody matter, or where Child Protective Services (CPS) takes custody, there is a voluntary surrender of permanent custody, minor parents, or parents who appear to be mentally incompetent.
The Guardian ad Litem, in Juvenile Court, can recommend protective supervision, temporary custody, legal custody, planned permanent living arrangements, or permanent custody.
In a domestic relations court in Ohio, under ORC Section 3109.04, when custody is contested through a divorce matter or when one person is deceased, the Guardian ad Litem will help to recommend who is to be the residential parent, whether there should be shared parenting, relative placement, or to certify the case to juvenile court when both parents are unsuitable for custody and there is no other person to take custody of the child.
At the end of the day, the Guardian ad Litem must review all the different factors that could affect the parent-child relationship or the person(s) whom will have custody of the child, and then he or she will make a recommendation. The Guardian ad Litem’s recommendation should protect the child's right to have a meaningful, strong relationship with their parents, in a way that makes sense and is in the child’s best interests and / or recommend custodial placement for a child that is safe for the child and in the child’s best interests.
Dahlberg, Stanley & Foderetti, LLC, offers free initial consultations for new clients. Please contact our office with any additional questions you may have in regards to the involvement of a Guardian ad Litem in your Ohio case, or with any other family law issue you might be facing.
- Dennis B. Dahlberg, Esq.