If Dispute – May Ask the Court
One option available in a child custody or parent-time dispute is to ask the court to have a private guardian ad litem (PGAL) appointed. The PGAL is an attorney who has been trained to report to the court the child’s wishes and to make a recommendation. They are not a trained child custody evaluator, but they can make a recommendation on custody or issues involving abuse, neglect, or virtually any issue which pertains to the best interest of the child. They are a lot less expensive than hiring a custody evaluator. However, it has been my experience, that there is a wide range of competence in panel attorneys serving as guardians ad litem. I recommend using one who is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, i.e., the AFCC. This organization is composed of judges, psychotherapits, and family law lawyers, who meed periodically to discuss cutting edge, family law issues.
Although the court can keep the PGAL on the case for a long time, frequently PGALs are used for a quick recommendatin. They are paid $150 per hour if court-ordered, and each party shares in the payment – the percentage of payment depending upon each party’s ability to pay. The parties can also agree to select a particular PGAL who is on the court roster. The Court will frequently follow the recommendations of the PGAL, so their use can be invaluable.
The PGAL statute is Utah Code Section 78A-2-705.