Guardian ad litems and home visits
I wrote in a blog last week about some of the activities and responsibilities of a guardian ad litem when custody or placement is contested. One of those activities sometimes involves the guardian ad litem wanting to make a home visit.
This usually takes place when the other parent has raised issues over safety concerns or an unsuitable living environment for the children. The purpose typically of such a home visit is to address those concerns and how it impacts on that parent having placement of the children.
Many times, the guardian ad litem may bring another person with them, such as a social worker. The reason for that is that the guardian ad litem is an attorney and cannot testify in court as to what they observe or see. They need an extra pair of eyes, if you will, to be able to come and court and testify, if necessary over the living conditions at that parent’s house.
The guardian ad litem and the social worker accompanying them for the visit, may also wish to take photographs or videos during the home visit. This is not unusual depending on why there is being a home visit scheduled in the first place.
Sometimes, the guardian ad litem will arrange the visit in advance, and in other cases, where they may be a concern of catching the person off guard, the visit may be a surprise visit. Most of the time, you can probably expect that the visit will be planned and arranged in advance as opposed to a litigant feeling they have been ambushed with a home visit.
The guardian ad litem may also decide to visit both parent’s home, so the investigation seems even handed, even where there has not necessarily been an issue raised as to the living conditions at the other parent’s home.
Another reason the guardian ad litem may wish to schedule a home visit, is to see the children in their own environment and rather than interviewing the children at the guardian ad litem’s office, may chose to conduct an interview at the home, which is less intimidating to the child.
What should you do if you are made aware that the guardian ad litem wants to schedule a home visit? The obvious answer is to clean up your home and make sure it is clean, orderly and whatever allegations of safety concerns or your home not being suited to have the children over, are remedied, prior to the home visit. The guardian ad litem will direct you and the other parent, whether the children should be present for the visit. Expect the home visit to be of fairly short duration, anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes or so, depending on whether the guardian ad litem plans to talk or interview the children during the visit.
You should be polite and respectful during the visit and not get upset if the guardian ad litem seems concerned about what they may be observing. While one would technically have a right to have their attorney present during the home visit, usually the visits are arranged in advance with the consent of the attorneys and there is no reason for the attorneys to be present during the home visit.
If you have questions on guardian ad litems or home visits in custody cases, call the experienced family lawyers at Karp & Iancu, S.,C. today for a free consultation.