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What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?

Posted on in Family Law

MI custody lawyerSome parents become nervous when they find out that a guardian ad litem has been assigned to their child custody case. If you have been informed that a guardian ad litem will be involved, you should know that this is perfectly normal. A GAL is brought in almost every time a child custody case is contested. Really, the only way to avoid having one brought in is to agree to a parenting plan with your child’s other parent. A GAL is there to help the court determine what type of parenting time arrangement and allocation of parental responsibilities would be best for your child. A judge can only learn so much by asking your child a few questions in court, but a GAL can conduct a much more thorough investigation. It is important to be represented by a well-qualified child custody lawyer during these proceedings. 

A Guardian Ad Litem Investigates 

There are certain factors the court is required to consider when making decisions about child custody. Factors like how your child is doing in their current home, school, and community can be very important to the court. But how does the court know how well your child is doing at home, in school, or in their extracurriculars? This is where a GAL comes in. A GAL has much more time to talk with your children and, sometimes, those around them in order to get a clear picture of how some of these factors apply to your child. 

A Guardian Ad Litem is Trained to Work With Kids

Judges are experts in the law, not necessarily in child psychology. There is some variance in how “good with kids” judges in the family law courts are. On the other hand, guardian ad litems are specifically trained to work with children. They are very good at getting children to give them the information they need. 


MI custody lawyerWhile a child does not get to decide which parent to live with, courts can take a child’s preferences into account. Michigan child custody laws require judges to consider a variety of factors in order to determine what type of custody arrangement would be best for the child. The law is very clear that all decisions regarding child custody are to be made based on the child’s best interests. What a child wants may be important in making this decision. If a child is adamant that they want to live with one parent, forcing them to live with the other might not be good for the child. However, courts are also aware that children do not always know what is best for them. Your attorney can help you understand how your child’s wishes may play a role in the court’s decision. 

The Role of a Child’s Wishes in Parenting Time Decisions

How much weight the court may give a child’s preferences depends on several things. First, the child’s age matters. Very young children do not have the life skills needed to make a good decision about which household would be better for them. Older children may know which parent they get along with better and who is more involved in their lives. Courts will also consider how reasonable the child’s preferences are. Children often want to live with the “fun” parent who gives them more freedom, whether that freedom is good for the child or not. 

Another reason children cannot decide their own custody cases is that children are susceptible to being manipulated by a parent. One parent may try to bribe or coerce the child into living with them full-time. This is why courts do not always take every child’s word regarding their preferences at face value. There is a lot more that goes into deciding child custody cases. 


Novi Child Custody LawyerChild custody issues can be among the most emotionally challenging and legally complex situations that parents have to work through when getting a divorce. When one parent in a joint custody agreement decides to relocate with the child, the situation becomes more challenging and potentially more contentious. Today, we will highlight the key factors Michigan courts consider when evaluating parental relocation requests. If you have questions or concerns related to your divorce, child custody, or any other family law matter, contact an experienced lawyer to give yourself the best shot at obtaining a favorable custody ruling.

Protecting Parental Rights is Most Important 

For the court to move a child, there must be sufficient reasons as to why the move must take place. Michigan law states that for parents in a joint custody agreement, neither parent may move more than 100 miles without the expressed consent of the other parent or court. In situations further than 100 miles, the court refers to this as a “change of domicile.” In cases where both parents agree to the move, the move may happen. However, if the parent who is not moving does not consent to the move, that is where things get tricky. In such situations, the moving parent may need to petition the court to grant approval for the move.

Relevant Factors for Parental Relocation 

  1. Reason for relocation – An essential factor assessed by Michigan courts is the ultimate reason for moving. Motivations such as a better job opportunity, a higher standard of living, or being closer to family may be viewed as valid reasons. 


Novi Family LawyersThere is a good chance what one parent may file for a child support modification at some point while the other is paying. Although a judge may apply child support guidelines, modifications are not simple matters. They can have significant impact on the finances of both parents. Thus, a child support lawyer is recommended for the modification process.

The Numbers Are Not Always How They Appear

Each parent needs to disclose their income, so the judge can calculate the new amount of child support if a modification is warranted. Your income may be challenged, or you may have issues about what the other parent has claimed as their income. There are issues such as how to calculate a parent’s income and claims of voluntary impoverishment. The court may adjust a parent’s income for purposes of calculating child support. 

Child Support Is Not Just the Monthly Payment

The main part of child support is the monthly payment that one parent makes to the other. However, child support also includes other things. For example, one parent may want the other to pay their share when they believe that private school is necessary. In that event, the parent would reopen child support for the judge to consider the disputed matter. The court would weigh all factors in determining whether the parent must pay towards private education and how that payment would be considered in conjunction with child support. 


Novi Family Law AttorneyWhen a child’s parents decide to end their marriage or nonmarital romantic relationship in Michigan, the courts insist upon formalizing a child custody order. Co-parents are also generally required to construct and adhere to a parenting plan that will govern their shared parenting arrangements.

Although most parents who choose to remain active in their kids’ lives opt for a joint custody arrangement, some families benefit from a joint legal/sole physical or a sole custody order. If a non-custodial parent wishes to remain bonded with their child under these circumstances, they may be granted unsupervised or supervised parenting time, depending on whatever arrangement has been deemed in service of a child’s best interests.

Regardless of how a child’s custody order and parenting plan are structured, one or both of these legally-enforceable orders can be modified under certain circumstances.

Oakland County Bar Association State Bar of Michigan Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan WCCDBA Woman Lawyers Association of Michigan
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