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Role of a guardian ad litem in child custody disputes

Rhode Island divorce cases can get messy. In particular, child custody disputes can get contentious as soon-to-be ex-spouses fight over who should have custody over the children. People will often fight for the right to see their children and be an active part in their upbringing. In prolonged custody battles, each spouse is generally represented by an attorney. That attorney can fight for that parent's needs and desires.

However, in these child custody disputes, it can be harder to ensure that the child's needs are taken into account. In order to ensure that the child has an advocate, under section 15-5-16.2(c)(1) of the Rhode Island code, the court can determine that a child needs a guardian ad litem appointed for them. Going forward, the guardian ad litem represents the interests of the child. They can be appointed in disputes over visitation, child support or child custody.

The guardian will then have the opportunity to interview the parties involved in the case including the child as part of a full investigation on the case. The guardian will then be responsible for creating a written report of the case including the procedural background of the case and information on any interviews that were conducted. The guardian will also have to include a statement about the needs and wishes of the child and any other information pertaining to the child's best interests.

In these cases, a guardian ad litem will have access to medical records, educational records and other information about the child. Communication with the guardian is not privileged and may be disclosed to all parties including the court.

Rhode Island residents involved in child custody disputes should understand the potential role of a guardian ad litem and how this person can affect the outcome of the case.

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