Tag: Family Law

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A Guardian Ad Litem, also referred to as a GAL, is a person appointed by the court to represent the best interests of minor children who are affected by court cases involving child custody issues, divorces or dissolutions.  GALs are required to follow rules and standards laid out in Rule 48 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio.

Unless Children Services is involved in the court case, the litigation parties are responsible for paying the GAL.  The rate charged and the deposit required by each GAL varies depending on experience.  Typically, GAL costs are divided equally between the parties unless there is a good reason to do otherwise, such as a significant difference in income between the parties.  After making an initial deposit, the parties will receive a monthly statement from the GAL’s office.

It is important that a GAL is someone a magistrate and judge can trust to conduct a thorough investigation and provide a recommendation about the best interest of the children at hearings and trial. GALs make many recommendations including where a child should go to school and what visitation schedule is best.

Because GALs make important recommendations, they are given significant autonomy when conducting their investigation.  GALs will have access to children and to their schools, doctors and counselors and any other professional or information, so they can offer an objective and fair recommendation.  GALs will also interview the parties and relevant witnesses either in person or by phone and complete visits to each home to learn more about the children and to see whether or not the children’s basic needs are being met.

If you work with a GAL it is important to be accessible, be honest, pay your retainer early, and keep up to date with payments.  When introducing a Guardian ad Litem to your child, be honest, but age appropriate. With younger children, you might tell them a GAL is a friend.  With older children, you might tell them the GAL is involved in the court case, so they have a voice in the legal process.  Never tell a child that they have to choose between loved ones and never tell a child what to say or how to answer questions.  It is best to be yourself when interacting with a GAL and to remember that a GAL is involved to give your child(ren) a voice during a challenging journey in the court system.

DO I NEED A PRE-NUPTIAL AGREEMENT?

Whether you “need” a Pre-Nuptial Agreement really does depend on your goals.  The basic purpose of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is to decide in advance what will happen with your assets and debts after you get married.  These Agreements can be tailored to your specific needs and goals.  Do you want the normal provisions of marital law to apply if your marriage ends through legal separation, divorce, or dissolution of marriage?  Do you want laws regarding spousal rights in the event of death to control what happens to your property if you are married at the time of your death?

One of the first things to consider is what will happen if your marriage ends by divorce and you do not have a Pre-Nuptial Agreement.  As a general rule, the property and debts that you had before you got married will remain your separate property and debt when you get divorced.  All assets that you acquire during your marriage are considered marital property, unless you received them as a gift or an inheritance.  The same is true with debts – liabilities that you incur after your marriage that are incurred for a “marital purpose” will also be considered debts of the marriage that both spouses will have to share in the divorce.  With a Pre-Nuptial Agreement, you can agree that any asset or debt that you acquire after you get married will remain your separate asset and your separate debt.

You can also make agreements about what will happen to your property if you are married at the time of your death.  In Ohio, spouses can make a claim to a portion of their deceased spouse’s probate assets, even if the deceased spouse had a Will that left nothing to their surviving spouse.  Surviving spouses also have rights related to the marital residence, the right to administer the estate, and other rights.  You can negate the effects of those legal provisions by agreeing to something different in a Pre-Nuptial Agreement.

If you’re thinking of marriage but you’d like to iron out what will happen if the marriage ends in divorce or death, you should consider speaking to an attorney about whether a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is right for you.  But, don’t wait too long.  Some of the basic requirements for a valid Agreement include that it must be in writing, that it is signed prior to the marriage, and that both parties have sufficient time to review the Agreement and get advice from an Attorney.

Thomas Addessa

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