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Advocates for children in custody cases add to expense

Child custody cases in Arizona and nationwide are emotional and can be drawn out. Often adding to the complexity and expense of a child custody battle is the role of a court-appointed advocate who is supposed to speak out for the independent interests of a child. Most people acknowledge that in the vast majority of cases, even those that are hotly contested, both parents sincerely have the child's best interests at heart. However, the child's advocate, known as a guardian ad litem (for purposes of the litigation) can speak for the child's interests, with no duty to advocate for either parent.

The cost typically must be paid by the parents. A number of states have recently enhanced efforts to reduce litigation costs in child custody hearings in particular, as well as divorce proceedings in general. A concern of many is that such costs may eat up assets needed by the parents or even use up savings that could otherwise help pay for a child's education.

Among the issues being discussed widely is the role and expense of the guardian ad litem. Such guardians make recommendations to family court judges about visitation, custody and other child-related issues. These recommendations are given some weight but are not binding on the court. The court can examine other evidence presented by the parents' lawyers and other professionals, such as social workers and psychologists. Guardian ad litems are not required in all cases. Some have called for reforms that could change the circumstances under which such appointments are made.

Source: Myrecordjournal.com, "Panel reviews costs of child custody cases" Dave Collins, Oct. 28, 2013

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