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DIVORCE 40: What does a court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) do?

In this case, the parties divorced by consent judgment in February 2018. Under the divorce judgment, the parties shared joint legal custody and plaintiff had primary physical custody of their minor child, who has special needs.

In the divorce judgment, the parties agreed that if either relocated closer in distance to the other, such a move would constitute sufficient proper cause or change of circumstances for a party to petition the court to revisit the custody and parenting-time schedule.

By January 2019, plaintiff had moved closer to defendant. In March 2019, defendant filed a motion requesting a modification of custody, parenting time, and school for the minor child.

Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)

The court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) testified that she investigated the case and believed that plaintiff had withheld defendant’s parenting time, and that plaintiff had a history of impeding the relationship between the child and defendant.

The GAL also testified that the child was aggressive toward plaintiff and toward children at school, and that the child regressed into a baby-like state when he was with plaintiff. Plaintiff agreed that she had had some issues controlling the child. The GAL testified that the child did not have the same behavioral issues when with defendant.

The GAL was also concerned that plaintiff made unilateral decisions despite the fact that the parties shared joint legal custody. She recommended that the parties share both joint legal and physical custody, and that the child live with defendant during the school year instead of with plaintiff.

Court Decision

On the basis of the parties’ stipulation in the judgment of divorce and plaintiff’s move, the court found that defendant had established the proper cause or change of circumstances required to bring a motion for change of custody and parenting time.

The court found that an established custodial environment existed with both parties and that defendant proved by clear and convincing evidence that a change in physical custody was in the child’s best interests. Accordingly, the trial court granted defendant’s motion and ordered that the parties share joint legal and physical custody and that the child would live primarily with defendant during the school year.

Child Custody Agreements

Aldrich Legal Services assists parents with all types of child custody matters, including, relocation, petitioning for or contesting modifications, enforcing child support orders and negotiating child support agreements.

If you are going through a divorce or are separating from the mother or father of your children, it is important to protect your custodial rights.

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