What is A Guardian Ad Litem In Utah?

Guardian ad Litem in the state of Utah is a court appointed attorney who represents the child; both the child’s wishes and the child’s best interests. If there is a conflict between the child’s wishes and what the guardian ad litem believes to be the child’s best interests, then the guardian ad litem has to represent both and say something like “Your Honor, Here are my client’s desires and here’s why he thinks it. Here’s what I think is in my client’s best interest and here’s why I think that best for the child.”

The court is going to assume that the guardian ad litem’s arguments to the court are in the child’s best interest and what the child wishes, or at least is not contrary to the child’s wishes, unless the guardian ad litem specifically states otherwise.

Is It A Good Idea To Ask The Court For A Guardian Ad Litem If Parental Alienation Is Suspected?

Whether or not to ask the court for a guardian ad litem (“GAL”), depends on a variety of things. In the state of Utah in district court where divorce and custody actions take place public guardian ad litems were done away with in 2013. The public office of guardian ad litem are court appointed attorneys that represent the child. They are exclusively appointed in juvenile court where there are allegations of abuse or neglect, often with DCFS involvement or the attorney general involvement. This is where protective supervision services are implemented by the court or a child is removed at least temporarily from a parent. However, in district court where custody actions take place, a private guardian ad litem can be appointed and very often the court will require the parents to pay for it.

Once a private guardian ad litem is appointed it is unknown who will be selected unless the parties stipulate to a particular individual. If the parties know that a particular attorney is on the private guardian ad litem roster they can stipulate to that person. However, if they do not agree then it’s the luck of the draw. The person might or might not have good training about litigation, about how to interview children, about child development, about child-related issues, etcetera. Therefore it is a risk to request a random “GAL.” The other thing is that the court will very often require one or both parties to pay the attorney’s fees of the guardian ad litem.

This can be very expensive to pay both the parent’s own attorney’s fees plus half the guardian ad litem’s fees. To boil it down, it can be risky to do so and it should be done carefully on a case by case basis.

Can Any False Allegations Made By The Alienating Parent Be Retracted In Court?

Certain things can be stricken from the record for various reasons. However, that’s more rare than common. It is more common at trial if somebody says something that lacks foundation or is hearsay. At trial an attorney can object and move to strike. If the court grants the objection and the motion to strike, then it is stricken from the record and it cannot be used for any purpose. However, if somebody puts it in an affidavit and files it with a motion early on in the case, a motion to strike anything that is hearsay or without foundation that was not personally observed etc. can be filed. An attorney has to stay on top of that.

The most frequently that I see false or distorted information being presented is before trial. It’s at affidavit or temporary orders hearings where people are just filing things left and right or proffering testimony. But you don’t have the opportunity to actually examine or cross-examine them on the stand until much later on the proceedings. The best way to counter that is in the moment, right when it happens. If somebody files an affidavit that has false or distorted information, then you file your objection to that immediately.

Temporary orders hearings are often done by proffer, meaning that instead of evidence being taken, instead of a witness being put on the stand subject to examination and cross-examination, an attorney will stand up and say, “Your honor, here is my client. If he were called to testify today he would say what he said in his affidavit that has been filed before the court.”

An attorney needs to object to that and move to strike immediately at the pre-trial proceedings. That said, those things are not going to be terribly binding at trial.

How do you correct that false or distorted information with the child?

If a parent is disparaging the other parent or is reinforcing a negative view of the other parent to the child, typically that is handled in family therapy. You can get that court ordered to where the parties or parent and the child are ordered to be in therapy to help address things like that.

For more information on Preventing Child Alienation In Utah, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 616-3301 today.

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*Child Welfare Law Specialist Nat’l Assoc. of Counsel for Children