Published April 2021
In family law cases where child custody is disputed, a Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed. A Guardian Ad Litem is an advocate for the best interest of a child or children. Pursuant to Missouri statute, it is the Guardian Ad Litem’s role to provide the Judge with an independent recommendation about what child custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child or children involved in the proceeding. In many cases, the Guardian Ad Litem’s recommendation carries substantial weight with a Judge when determining child custody. The benefits and risks of involving a Guardian Ad Litem in a child custody dispute should be carefully considered with a family law attorney.
In Missouri, if a parent makes allegations or relies on evidence of abuse or neglect to support a specific child custody arrangement, the Court is required to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem. Though showing abuse or neglect by the other parent may seem like an appealing way to solidify a child custody argument, great care should be exercised in deciding whether such allegations are wise to assert at all. Once the issue is broached by a parent, Judges tend to approach allegations of abuse or neglect with caution, and the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem should be expected. Whether intended or not, once a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed, he or she may have a significant influence over the outcome of a child custody case.
Each situation is different and the decisions of Courts in child custody cases rely heavily on the specific facts of the case. With the assistance of a family law attorney, it is important to consider fully the impact a Guardian Ad Litem may have on a child custody case prior to asserting allegations that could trigger the required appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem. If you need assistance with a family law matter, contact the family law attorneys at Newman, Comley and Ruth P.C. at (573) 634-2266 or through our webform.