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TX divorce lawyerIf you are planning to end your marriage, you will need to address a wide variety of legal issues. In a contested divorce, disputes with your spouse can become highly contentious, and if you have children together, you will likely disagree about how you will share in parenting duties and divide the time that your children spend in each of your homes. If you are struggling to reach agreements about complex child custody issues, the judge in your case may decide that a child custody evaluation is needed. Depending on the circumstances of your case, either a guardian ad litem or another type of child custody evaluator may be appointed.

What Is a Guardian ad Litem?

The court may appoint a person who will represent the best interests of the child in a divorce or child custody case. In many cases, a guardian ad litem will be an attorney, but they may also be another person who has the training and experience necessary to determine what is in a child’s best interests.

The guardian ad litem, or GAL, will conduct an investigation and gather information about the case. They may conduct interviews with a child who is at least four years old, the parents, and anyone else who has knowledge about the child’s history and circumstances, such as teachers or childcare providers. They will also be able to obtain records related to the child’s education, medical care, or psychological treatment.

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child custody battle, Austin family lawyer, child abuse, Austin Texas, divorce attorneyA Fulton County, Georgia judge has ordered the mother involved in a bitter custody dispute to pay $195,000 in legal fees to her ex-husband's attorney. According to an article in the Daily Report, the judge issued the ruling after announcing that the child-abuse accusations that the mother alleged against the father were not credible and has determined that the father will retain primary custody of the child.

The parents were divorced in 2009, when a child psychologist filed a suspicion of child abuse report based on the child talking about "secret stuff" at the father's house. The father was arrested and charged with child molestation in Georgia. The father also maintained a home in Colorado and was arrested and charged there too, after the mother filed a complaint in that state. The Fulton County district attorney's office conducted a two-year investigation, but dismissed the charges in 2011. Colorado authorities also dismissed their charges. A year later, in 2012, after only seeing his daughter once in three years, the father filed a motion for custody petition. In 2013, based upon recommendations from a therapist chosen by the mother, a custody evaluator and the child's guardian ad litem, reunification therapy between the child and her father was begun. A month later, in May 2013, the mother stopped the therapy and fired her attorney. In June, the judge granted temporary custody of the child to the father. This decision ignited protests at the courthouse. A final hearing was held in October, with the protesters returning to picket outside the courthouse during the six day trial. During the trial, the mother's attorney claimed there were over 20 images of child pornography found on the father's computer. However, in his decision, the judge pointed out the mother's computer expert witness testified there was only one image he thought was child pornography, but also admitted during testimony that he could not say what the ages of the people in the image were. The judge also signaled out the mother's child therapist expert witness, writing that she "inappropriately gave opinions about the child without ever having interacted with the child." Regarding ordering the mother to pay the father's attorney fees, the judge wrote, "While this Court notes that efforts to level the playing field are generally viewed favorably in the context of domestic cases, there never should have been a playing field to begin with in this case." If you are involved in a child custody dispute, contact an experienced Austin family law attorney today to ensure that you and your children's rights are protected in the courtroom.
A divorce court appoints Gardians at Litem, or GALs, to represent the best interest of a child during their parents' divorce. If a divorce goes smoothly, the parties, usually through their attorneys, are able to reach a mutually acceptable custody arrangement. However, it is not uncommon for divorces to turn even the most amicable parties into ferocious adversaries with children caught in the middle. RigersIf the divorce is hotly contested and there are children involved, there is a fear that there is an inherent risk that the parties do not have the child's best in mind. For example, in a fight over split custody, one parent may accuse the other of having an unsanitary or dangerous house that is unfit for children. Obviously, this is an allegation and it may or may not be true, but most judges will not disregard a potential source of harm to a child. This often results in divorce judges being faced with competing stories, each told with the emotion and ardor that usually accompanies divorce cases. What is a judge to do? Enter the GAL. The judge will appoint a GAL to act as an advocate for the child and ensure that the ultimate resolution is in the best interest of the child. In the example above, the GAL would probably inspect the residence to substantiate the allegation and report the findings to the judge. Again, the goal is not to prove which parent is telling the truth or lying, but to ensure that the child is in a safe place. The Texas Guardian at Litem statutes, Texas Family Code §107.001 at seq., set forth the powers and duties of a GALs. If a judge orders a GAL to represent a child, it is very important that you have an experienced Texas family law attorney on your side to ensure that your interests are represented adequately.

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