In contested child custody cases, judges are given the task of deciding what is in the best interest of children. This is typically done by first considering the evidence presented by the attorneys of the respective clients and the recommendation of a guardian ad litem. The guardian is usually an attorney appointed to represent the best interest of the child.
I recently had somewhat of a heated conversation with an opposing attorney about how our roles are defined. In this highly contested custody case, I represent the mother; the opposing attorney represents the father; and the child has been appointed a guardian ad litem. In one of our conversations, the opposing attorney forcefully accused me of taking the case too personally. When I explained to her that I was merely trying to protect the child from a potential danger, her response was, “it is not your job to protect this child. That is what the guardian is for”. I was shocked. Just last week, I had a similar conversation with a guardian ad litem. In this termination of parental rights, I requested that the child’s address be kept confidential because the father, who has not seen the child in over 3 years, has a long criminal history; was physically violent towards the mother during the relationship; and has a history of mental illness causing him to be institutionalized several times. At the conclusion of that conversation, the guardian stated, “Well, my goal in this case is different from yours”. Again, I was shocked.
Both conversations made me think, “Is it possible for the role of a parent’s attorney and the role of the guardian to become blurred?” Shouldn’t we all be fighting for the same thing…to protect the safety and welfare of children? Personally, that is the very reason I practice family law. It is the most direct way that I can use my chosen profession to help children.
I completely understand why many family law attorneys would disagree. Often, the wishes of a client are contrary to the best interest of the child, but the attorney is bound by the State Bars Rules of Professional Conduct to diligently advocate for the client. It is a very interesting debate that will not be resolved in this blog. All I can do is make the personal decision on what I think is right and conduct my business accordingly.
At Daniele Johnson & Associates, we believe that the interest of the client and the best interest of the children are the same thing. We will work with you to identify what is in the best interest of your children and strongly advocate towards that goal.