In many states, a guardian ad litem refers to an attorney or other individual appointed to represent the children’s interests. In Arizona, a guardian ad litem is referred to as a Best Interests Attorney (or “BIA”). Read more to discover the details about Best interests attorneys in Arizona: what you need to know.
Overview: What the BIA Does
The BIA works with individuals in the case like the children’s teachers, attorneys, state agencies, and other individuals who know the child or children involved. The purpose of their interactions with these people is to create a report for the judge. A BIA makes recommendations about what the judge should consider or even do with regard to the children. Therefore, the information inside a BIA report can have a significant impact on your case outcome.
How A BIA Gets Appointed
An Order must be entered by the Court to appoint a BIA in Arizona. The order is entered based upon a judicial finding that one of the following issues pertain to the child in the case: 1) there is an allegation of abuse or neglect; 2) the parents are persistently in significant conflict with each other; 3) there is a history of substance abuse by either parent, or family violence; 4) there are serious concerns about the mental health or behavior of either parent; 5) the child is an infant or toddler; 6) the child has special needs; or 7) any other reason deemed appropriate by the Court. See, Rule 10, Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. The BIA is appointed as the child’s voice in the Court’s determination of legal decision making and/or parenting time.
Interacting with the BIA
As a parent in a contested custody case, the BIA may request information from you. Your family law attorney might also help you understand how to most appropriately interact with this individual. Since the BIA will explore many factors as part of representing “the child’s position,”, you need to interact professionally with such an individual at all times.
As a parent, there is no doubt that you feel some level of discomfort in having someone else represent your Child. This person may seem like a true outsider, not understanding the day-to-day of your family’s life or the child’s needs. That being said, you need to be clear when you interact with the BIA without being pushy. Interact with this person the same way you would interact with your co-parent’s attorney, if they have one. In a contested custody case, it’s common for emotions to run high, but you need to maintain a level of calm and always be professional with this individual.
The judge does not necessarily have to order entirely consistent with the BIA’s position. After all, the BIA serves as the Child’s attorney and is not in an evaluative role. Always being polite and courteous with the BIA, as well as responding to his/her requests in a timely fashion, is a good general code of conduct for interacting with someone in this role.
Make sure to ask your Arizona family law attorney more details about how the BIA may be used in your case and what you can expect as far as working with this individual. Having some idea of how this person is generally used can be helpful.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Best Interests Attorneys in Arizona: What You Need to Know, or any other family law issue, please feel free to contact Sheri D. Shepard at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.