In “contested” custody cases, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem is the court’s eyes and ears and will conduct an investigation which includes but is not limited to the following: talking to both parents; if old enough, talking to the children; talking to references provided by the parents; talking to the attorneys; reviewing documents filed in the court file; reviewing medical records; and reviewing the results of evaluations such as domestic violence/anger management evaluations, drug and alcohol evaluations, parenting assessments, psychological evaluations, etc.

The guardian ad litem then will write a report in which the guardian ad litem will propose the substantive terms of a parenting plan which will include a recommendation as to whether the children are best residing with the mother the majority of the time, the father the majority of the time, or if a 50-50 residential schedule is in the children’s best interests.

The court can also appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate factors relating to either or both parents and/or the homes of either or both parents including but not limited to the following–otherwise known as the “scope of the guardian ad litem’s investigation”:

  • Domestic violence;
  • Drug / Alcohol abuse;
  • Physical / Sexual abuse of a child;
  • Criminal history;
  • Parenting ability;
  • Psychological / Mental health issues;
  • Concerns regarding other adults in household;
  • Detrimental environment;
  • Abusive use of conflict; and
  • Abandonment / Neglect.