When parents are divorcing in New York and are unable to make a decision regarding child custody, the decision is often left up to the judge in the case. During child custody proceedings, both parents have an opportunity to present their arguments in favor of and against a certain child custody arrangement. But, who is there speaking in the child's best interest? A guardian ad litem can be that spokesperson.
When someone in a lawsuit cannot represent their own interests adequately, they may be appointed a spokesperson known as a guardian ad litem by the court. The "GAL"'s sole interest is putting forth information that would lead to a better decision about the child's best interests. In New York, an attorney is assigned as a guardian ad litem, either by the parents or through the court.
A guardian ad litem is different from a guardian in a few important ways. Firstly, the GAL is only able to protect the child's interests in a single lawsuit. They also have no control over the ward's property or person, and cannot provide a home for the child. In short, they do not have the capacity to manage someone's personal affairs.
Although all parties involved generally want to to make a child custody arrangement that is in the child's best interests, everyone's version of what this would entail generally differs. Having someone speaking on behalf of the child may be one way to get the outcome everyone wants. It might be beneficial to outline one's individual circumstances to an experienced attorney for guidance on how to proceed.