Accepting Recommendation of Guardian Ad Litem Not Abuse of Discretion

Appellate Court of Connecticut: Divorce Action

In a divorce action case, the Appellate Court of Connecticut considered whether a trial court abused its discretion in not following the wishes of the minor children in determining what was in their best interests, and for following the recommendation of the appointed guardian ad litem.

When a court creates or modifies orders governing child custody and visitation, it is imperative that they place the best interests of the children at the forefront. General Statutes § 46b-56(c) enumerates sixteen non-exclusive factors that a court may consider. The wish of a child is one factor – but it isn’t the only one. In this case, the trial court seriously considered the children’s preferences as part of a larger picture and elected against honoring them.

As the court put it, the middle child “can’t be the one that is making the decisions here.” The Appellate Court found that the trial court properly considered the entirety of the evidence it had on hand and weighed many of the factors governing the best interests of the children. As such, the Appellate Court denied this ground for appeal.

Appointed Guardian Ad Litem

A court may appoint a guardian ad litem (guardian) if the court doing so is in the best interests of a minor child. This person is disinterested, or “unbiased by personal interest or advantage,” and as such speaks on behalf of the child’s best interest. Guardians are tasked with a multitude of duties, which include making recommendations to the court through testimony. The credibility and evidentiary effect of this testimony is weighed by the trial court, to which the appellate courts will defer. In this case, the mother admitted that the guardian was a “seasoned veteran and a competent professional [with] no ax to grind.”

The attorney for the minor children echoed a similar sentiment. When the guardian testified on behalf of the father, all attorneys involved had a fair opportunity to cross-examine her. As the Appellate Court determined, the guardian’s role was to provide a recommendation as a neutral party, to be considered with all other evidence before the court, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by following her recommendation. As such, the court denied this ground for appeal as well.

Whether advancing or defending a pendente lite order to modify custody or visitation, a parent is best served by consulting with an experienced family law practitioner. Should you have questions regarding matrimonial matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com. Call today to schedule a free initial consultation.