In part 2, Attorney Anne Shale lists four more functions of a Guardian ad Litem in the State of Ohio including her conclusion.
IV. Who pays for the services of the Guardian ad Litem?
The Court has great discretion in determining which party shall pay for the services of a Guardian ad Litem. In many instances, the Court will initially direct each party to pay for one half of the Guardian ad Litem’s fees. Depending upon the recommendations of the Guardian ad Litem, the Court may reserve the right to reallocate or reapportion the payment of the fees for the Guardian ad Litem.
For example, if Mother is asserting that Father is abusive with a harmful dependence upon drugs and/or alcohol and the Guardian ad Litem finds no evidence of same with his/her investigation of the family unit, the Court may direct Mother to pay for all of the Guardian ad Litem’s fees.
V. What are the “usual” fees for having a Guardian ad Litem?
The “usual” fees will vary from case to case and from Court to Court so the answer is dependent upon the facts of the case and the Court having jurisdiction of the case. In the Domestic Relations Court of Montgomery County, Ohio, the usual fee for a “private” Guardian ad Litem is the sum of $650.00. If the Guardian ad Litem has a particularly complex or unusual case, the fees may be greater than the sum of $650.00. If the case is referred to the Family Relations Department of the Family Court of Montgomery County, Ohio to serve as the Guardian ad Litem, the fees are much less than the sum of $650.00. If the case is being heard by the Juvenile Court of Montgomery County, Ohio, the Court may “absorb” the costs of the Guardian ad Litem.
VI. When would either party seek the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem?
The Guardian ad Litem can play a very pivotal role in cases involving conflict and dispute regarding custody of the minor child or children, visitation issues, now known as parenting time issues, and any and all other child-related problems. The following case scenarios are examples wherein a Guardian ad Litem might be appointed to assist the Court in resolving the apparent conflict(s) between the parties:
A. Mother alleges that Father has a problem with drugs and/or alcohol or Father alleges that Mother has a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. If either party has the funds available to pay for a psychological evaluation or assessment of the parties ($3000 – $5000), one of the parties would request that such an evaluation be conducted. If the parties do not have the monies to pay for a psychological assessment, the Guardian ad Litem is a valuable and important substitute for an independent and objective assessment of the pending problematic situation.
B. Mother alleges that the present Wife of former Husband is abusive to the child and does not treat him/her fairly. The Guardian ad Litem would be in the position of interviewing the minor child, both parents, and any other relevant persons to determine if the child is being “abused” or “mistreated” by his/her present Step-Mother.
C. An adolescent child has opted to change “custody” from Mother to Father. After the transfer of custody, the minor adolescent child experiences problems with declining grades and behavioral problems. Mother wants custody of the minor child restored to her because she is not happy with the declining grades and/or apparent behavioral changes in the adolescent son. A Guardian ad Litem could serve the very useful purpose of determining whether a change of circumstances has occurred to warrant the change of custody from Father back to Mother.
In conclusion, a Guardian ad Litem can serve as a very important resource to either parent or party in divorce matters or post-Decree matters or in Juvenile Court matters. If either party wants an objective person or agency to assist with the resolution of custody issues, visitation issues, and other child-related matters, it is vital to ask the Court for the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem.
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.