What is a Guardian Ad Litem? with Hollie Bennett

A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a community volunteer appointed by the court to serve children by advocating for their best interests before the court. When appropriate, the court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem in a child custody action. If you’re currently involved in or about to enter a contested custody battle, divorce, or separation, this episode will help you understand the role of a GAL and what you can expect from the process.

In this episode, Touchstone Family Law founder Leigh Sellers speaks with Hollie Bennett of Palmetto Guardian and Adoption Services about her work as a guardian ad litem. They examine what the position of a guardian ad litem entails and their various responsibilities related to child custody cases. In general, the guardian ad litem is assigned by the court when the judge feels that he can’t be fully informed about the case at hand. They are advocates for the children, conducting a fair, balanced, and impartial investigation by collecting information through interviews, home visits, and other means. [01:52]

Hollie also debunks a few misconceptions about guardian ad litem. GAL are not tools to be used by either of the parties involved in divorce and do not represent one side or the other. [03:42] GAL are not there to care for the children, nor do they possess the same decision-making powers as the court. [18:12] While GAL are encouraged to make informed suggestions, the significant decisions lie with the judge and the parents. [19:40]

Leigh and Hollie also discuss what types of information guardian ad litem collect and the various qualifications required. [8:15] Attending training sessions and developing connections within the community are other requirements for those interested in becoming a GAL. [29:04]

Hollie also reveals the disadvantages of litigation and how this adversarial process has the potential to inflict additional immediate and long-term damage upon the children. As the guardian ad litem, it is incumbent upon them to encourage parents to work together to find alternative methods of resolving their disputes and explore options like collaborative mediation.

For more information on guardian ad litem, adoption, and the collaborative process, you can visit http://www.palmettosocialwork.com.

The insights and views presented in “Welcome to Splitsville” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey through divorce, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at http://www.TouchstoneFamilyLaw.com

Read Full Transcript

Intro:                            [00:01]                Hello there going through a divorce? Considering one? Sorry to hear that, but here you are welcome to Splitsville. You’ll find Splitsville to be a pretty unique place. A new world, really with its own rules, its own expectations, and in many ways its own language, but don’t worry. You have a knowledgeable guide along the way. A family law attorney with three decades of experience under her belt, and now here she is your host and guide Leigh Sellers.

Leigh Sellers:                 [00:37]                Hi everyone. And thanks for tuning into another episode of Welcome to Splitsville. I’m your host and guide Leigh sellers, founder of Touchstone Family Law, and in this episode, I’ll be answering another question that many newcomers to Splitsville have. What is a guardian ad litem? So, let’s dive in. So, today we’re here with Hollie Bennett to talk about a guardian ad litem and what their role is in a contested custody case. So, Hollie, we really appreciate you being here with us.

Hollie Bennett:              [01:14]                Thank you, Lee. I’m so glad to be here.

Leigh Sellers:                 [01:17]                Well, Hollie, I have had many cases that you’ve been involved in and you’re incredibly experienced as a guardian ad litem. And when we’re doing this work in contested custody cases, we all know what a guardian does, but the general public does not have a good understanding of what role a guardian ad litem plays in a custody case. So, can you tell us how you become involved in a contested custody case and then talk about what your responsibilities are? What your role is in a custody case?

Hollie Bennett:              [01:52]                Sure. Let me answer that for you. A guardian becomes involved in a case through the court. The judge who is at the temporary hearing is hearing your case. If he or she does not feel like they are going to be fully informed regarding the facts of the case, then the court oftentimes will appoint a guardian ad litem at that temporary hearing. Sometimes attorneys will, in advance of that, agree on a guardian that they would like to be involved in the case, and if not, then the court, the judge who hears the case will appoint me. A guardian’s role is pretty targeted. As I said earlier, when a judge doesn’t feel like he’s going to be fully informed about the facts of the case and there’s children involved, that’s the whole point of a guardian ad litem. Our primary role is to advocate for the best interest of the children or child. And so the way that we do that is by conducting a fair, a balanced and impartial investigation of the case.

Hollie Bennett:              [02:59]                We collect information, evidence in the case that we can share with the court at a final hearing, if necessary. We go about collecting that information in a variety of ways. A lot of it is done through interviews with the parties, interviews with the children, making home visits, viewing medical records, reviewing school records, talking with teachers. There’s just a whole host. I mean, we don’t have really a whole lot of parameters on, unless the judge imposes them, on what evidence would that we feel like we need to pursue or seek. That’s kind of an overview.

Leigh Sellers:                 [03:44]                Right, and a guardian ad litem. It does not really work for either party or either attorney. It doesn’t matter who recommends them. I mean, they are not a tool of either side.

Hollie Bennett:              [03:58]                No, we do not represent one parent or the other. Our responsibility is to advocate for the best interest of the child. When I say a fair, balanced and impartial investigation, that’s a part of the statute. So, we are not, one side or the other, are we advocating for? We’re advocating solely for the best interest of the child. We are neutral in regards to the parties themselves. We are often paid by both parties. Generally the court will, when a guardian is appointed, will at the beginning, indicate who is going to be responsible for what payment that the court directs that. And generally speaking, this isn’t always the case because the court has full discretion to do what it wants to do, but generally speaking, the parties split the costs that are associated with the guardian’s involvement.

Leigh Sellers:                 [04:57]                And that brings up an interesting point because the guardians are officers of the court. They’re serving at the pleasure of the court who appoints them. They are not paid by the court or by any agency. So, unfortunately they’re not court employees.

Hollie Bennett:              [05:12]                That is absolutely correct. We are officers of the court, but we are not funded by the court. The cases that we are involved in are private action cases that are brought by the one party or the other themselves, and it’s litigated in court, and just as each party, generally speaking, has their own respective attorneys that they pay for. I’m not an attorney, I’m a social worker. But if, again, if the court feels like the court is not going to be informed of the facts of the case and they feel like the conflict is so significant that the child needs some protection or advocacy throughout the court proceedings and the court appoints a guardian, but it’s the party’s responsibility to provide the payment for the guardian services.

Leigh Sellers:                 [06:02]                So, what States do you serve as a guardian ad litem in?

Hollie Bennett:              [06:05]                Just South Carolina. I am a social worker in South Carolina and my involvement has been 100% in South Carolina cases.

Leigh Sellers:                 [06:16]                Okay. And South Carolina has the guardian ad litem statute, which you mentioned. So, there’s actually laws that the legislature passed that control the role of the guardian ad litem in cases and not every state has that. South Carolina does. One of the things that you mentioned that I wanted to go back to was you said private action. So, we’re specifically in this podcast talking about private action attorneys, and this is different than the role of a guardian ad litem appointed in a department of social services DSS investigation.

Hollie Bennett:              [06:55]                That is such a great distinction, and I often get that question because there are really two different types of guardian ad litems. There are guardian ad litems that work solely, they’re volunteer, that works solely on cases that are involved with department of social services. Children who have been removed from care of their parents or their guardians for abuse or neglect, and when they are removed from care, they are appointed a volunteer guardian ad litem who follows them throughout the course of their involvement with the department social services. And like private guardian ad litems, they too have a role and responsibility for advocating for the best interest of the child and also conducting an investigation on behalf of that child so that they too can report back to the court what they believe is in the best interest of the child.

Leigh Sellers:                 [07:55]                Now, when you’re talking about the best interest of the child, what does that mean? I mean, it’s a phrase that’s used a lot, but when you’re investigating it as a guardian ad litem, what are you trying to actually figure out when you’re doing this investigation?

Hollie Bennett:              [08:15]                Well, when parties come into court with competing interests, there’s generally two sides of the story, and oftentimes parents are clamoring for, I hate to use the word “possession”, but oftentimes it feels like possession of the child, and with possession or custody of the child, of course, comes financial issues that involve the child. So, trying to weed through the competing interest of parties, because what’s in one person’s best interest, one party’s best interest or another person’s best interest very well may not be in a child’s best interest. So, looking at all the different factors that could be potentially involved in a case, trying to determine what parent, is there a predominant parent who’s been engaged and involved and understands and knows the child’s schedule, and oftentimes in cases you do. You’ve found one parent that may be more of a primary parent than the other parent, but both parents bring something to that parenting relationship that enhances and furthers a child’s appropriate development.

Hollie Bennett:              [09:31]                So, being able to kind of sift through the family dynamics and understand how those family dynamics affect and impact that child’s healthy growth and development, the end goal, and the best interest of that child is to further that healthy growth and development and figuring out how that can be done when parents are separating and divorcing.

Leigh Sellers:                 [09:57]                So, when we’re in private action lawsuits and parties are disagreeing about who needs to have custody of the children, sometimes they raise pretty serious allegations about the other person. And generally one of the reasons that the court often will bring somebody in is to have someone do an investigation into those allegations outside of the courtroom. So, talk about some of those special sort of circumstances where you play a role by really sort of being a detective about these various kinds of accusations that one parent may levy against another.

Hollie Bennett:              [10:37]                Right. When parents go into court, the name of the game is to sling as much mud at the other party as possible to posture and to gain the ultimate goal, whatever that might be for them. And so, yeah, oftentimes parties make allegations. Sometimes there’s little pieces of truth to allegations that are made, but they’ll take a little piece of truth and build a mountain around it and make it more significant than it really is. So, a Guardian’s involvement is going to take a look at each allegation that is laid out in their complaint and investigate each one of those, the validity of it. Sometimes parties will make allegations that the other side uses alcohol excessively, or drugs excessively, or that they’re never home, or that they’re always at their parents’ home and never involved in really parenting matters. They’ve never attended doctor’s visits or they don’t participate in school functions.

Hollie Bennett:              [11:51]                And so my role or the role of a guardian ad litem is to take each one of those investigations, take a look at it and either support it or determine that it’s not a valid allegation. And again, that’s done through a myriad of ways. If you, for example, if you have a parent saying that the mother has never attended one doctor’s appointment, never attended an IEP meeting for the child, doesn’t participate in any of the school functions, and the mother is saying, “Yes, I’ve done all of that.” Then a guardian is going to go into a case and she’s going to review the medical records. The medical records are going to reveal who brought the child to the doctor’s appointments. IEP meetings, have a list of everybody who participates in the IEP meetings because they have to sign. So, we’re going to get those IEP records. We’re going to talk with the teacher and find out if the parent has been participating in parent teacher conferences or is easily available by email or telephone calls.

Hollie Bennett:              [13:00]                So, there’s just a whole host of avenues that a guardian can pursue to determine the validity or the authenticity of an allegation.

Leigh Sellers:                 [13:12]                Now, one thing, just to back up, we are talking about contested custody cases where a court appoints a guardian ad litem, and those are the cases more where you’re going to see the parents slinging mud at the other one. The parents that aren’t trying to really undermine the other person as a parent, those cases don’t require the appointment of a guardian ad litem and you don’t typically see those kinds of allegations. They may have some differences of opinion about schedules or some things like that, but it’s not the same level of disagreement that we’re talking about with a guardian ad litem.

Hollie Bennett:              [13:48]                That’s correct, Leigh. If parents are separating and divorcing and they both have some emotional maturity to them, or there’s not a lot of conflict, they’ve both been involved in the parenting of their children and they’re both united in their efforts, there may be some conflict surrounding minor issues, but don’t necessarily involve the children, then there’s no reason for a guardian ad litem. The whole purpose for the appointment of a guardian is when there is high conflict involved in a case. There is significant allegations involved in a case. Often those allegations involve the child or children, and again, the court doesn’t feel like it’s going to really understand with the plaintiff’s putting information up and the defendant putting information up, that’s always two sides to a story, and the court doesn’t feel like it’s really going to get a comprehensive view of what’s and that the children are getting, being caught in the middle of that conflict. Then the court’s going to want a guardian involved. For those parties who are able to kind of navigate some of the SEO, there may be some conflict, but it’s not really child-focused and it’s things that are involving the separation of marital assets and those types of things. There’s no point in having a guardian involved in those cases.

Leigh Sellers:                 [15:20]                Now, when you were talking about your investigation, you get a court order that gives you permission that allows you to go in straight to the source and get information. So, let’s talk about this because you actually have an order that really kind of supersedes HIPPA. I mean, you don’t need a parent’s permission to go in and get their medical records. You have a court order that allows you to talk to their physicians, and get those records.

Hollie Bennett:              [15:49]                That’s correct. The court will either draft themselves or oftentimes attorneys already have a very comprehensive standard guardian ad litem order that the judge will sign. That does provide great leeway. No, I do not generally need a parent’s signature for me to secure their medical records or the medical records of a child. The court order is HIPAA compliant. It allows me information that I can pull from physicians, counselors, law enforcement, juvenile justice, really just about any agency that has been involved with the family or the children, the ability to secure their records. The one area, Leigh, that I do not have the ability and I do have to have the parties consent and signature on a release of information is when there has been substance abuse. If the parties have been received treatment inpatient or outpatient, it’s a higher level of protection that is provided to them. So, in those cases I do, but oftentimes the court will order them, even at that temporary hearing, will order the parties to sign any releases of information that’s required or requested by the guardian ad litem.

Hollie Bennett:              [17:15]                So, there’s not really much of a way for parties to kind of duck my ability to secure the information that I need to conduct the investigation that I’m conducting on behalf of the court.

Leigh Sellers:                 [17:28]                Now, when parties are talking about a guardian ad litem, and when you think about a guardian, in the layman’s terms, people appoint a guardian for a child, or someone goes to seek guardianship of a child. Often I have people that think that the other side is seeking to have somebody else take care of the child during the pendency of the litigation and I guess that makes sense when you think about being outside the legal system, but the guardian ad litem does not ever take physical care of the children away from their parent. When you’re with the children, generally the other parent is there, or they’ve brought them to a meeting that you’re going to have with them, but you’re not becoming a caretaker for the children.

Hollie Bennett:              [18:12]                That is absolutely correct. I’ve already raised three children. I’m not interested in raising additional children and most guardians aren’t, but that is a very good distinction because you hear about I’m the guardian for my niece. So, that is a very good distinction, and Leigh, you’ve said this earlier about we understand about guardian ad litems, the general public does not. And you know, it’s interesting that you say that because we even say the word guardian ad litem really quickly. And most people, when they call me, well they’ll say, “Hey, the judge appointed me a guardian ad litem.” Or they’ll pronounce it in a very different way, but it’s actually three words it’s guardian, and then ad, A-D, and then litem, L-I-T-E-M. So, a guardian ad litem is very different than a guardian who has legal responsibilities for the child of which they have guardianship.

Leigh Sellers:                 [19:17]                And you don’t make decisions about the child, either in this role. You can make recommendations to the parties or to the parties, attorneys about something based on your investigation, that you feel that somebody needs to step up to the plate and do or take care of, but you don’t actually have the power to order one parent to do anything.

Hollie Bennett:              [19:40]                No, and actually I am prohibited from making a recommendation regarding custody of the child. Again, my role and responsibility is fact-finding and evidence-finding to present to the court so that the court will be more fully informed when the court wants to make a decision. Now, the statute does allow me to make recommendations regarding… Actually the way the statute reads is that I have the ability to make specific and clear suggestions when necessary. So, not just anytime. It needs to be a necessary situation for evaluation services and treatment for children and the children’s family. So, that’s a very targeted responsibility. I am not making decisions about parenting time schedules. It was mother’s day and your husband didn’t allow you to have the child on mother’s day and you want to call up and say, “Hey, can you help us out?” Or you want the child next weekend because your parents are coming into town.

Hollie Bennett:              [20:57]                Oftentimes it’s easy for parties to think that guardian ad litems are kind of the tiebreaker in these disputes as they travel through their case, and that’s not the case. Even attorneys sometimes want to use guardians to make decisions about what’s going to happen next weekend or working out some parenting plan. Now we can make, if there’s something that’s going on in a case and a guardian, after conducting her investigation and talking with the children and there’s things that are very important for the child or the children, the guardian can make suggestions based on that information and provide that information to both attorneys or both parties, but again, we are impartial. So, we’re not going to work with one side or work with the other side. If we’re providing information, that information goes both ways. It’s not just a one attorney or another attorney.

Leigh Sellers:                 [21:59]                So, we’re talking about recommendations while you’re doing an investigation as you’re doing it, but you do point out that in court, you can only make a recommendation in an actual trial to a judge, if the judge asks you.

Hollie Bennett:              [22:12]                That is correct, and oftentimes when a guardian writes their report, a guardian will make separate recommendations in a separate document that sealed that can be available to the court. Should the court inquire about it. Sometimes the court does want to know what the Guardian’s position is and oftentimes the court doesn’t. And oftentimes if the attorneys have done a great job in arguing their case and the guardian has done a good job in collecting information for the court, then oftentimes the court doesn’t need a guardian to specifically stay. The judge can make up his or her own mind about what they believe is in the child’s best interest.

Leigh Sellers:                 [23:03]                Right, and that’s an important thing to make sure that if you go to a full hearing or trial on custody, the guardian ad litem is a party. You actually sit in the courtroom, you can call witnesses, you can introduce documentation, and you can question the other witnesses and the parties. You are literally like a third attorney or a third party on behalf of the child to make sure that all the questions get asked and answered that you, as the guardian, feel like need to be presented. So you’re actually in an evidentiary role if it goes to court.

Hollie Bennett:              [23:39]                That is absolutely correct. We are participants in that case until the case reaches a conclusion. Either the parties have found an agreement amongst themselves. They have gone through mediation and were able to reach an agreement through mediation, or it’s gone to trial. But until the court closes the case, either through agreement and putting an agreement on the record or going to trial, then that guardian ad litem’s involvement persist until that time unless the court relieves a guardian in advance of that, for some reason, from their responsibilities.

Leigh Sellers:                 [24:19]                And also one of the important things to know is that a guardian doesn’t try to mediate the custody with the parties. Like you said, you’re not only not making decisions about what’s going on with a weekend or a particular schedule, but you’re not, also by the statute, not allowed to sit down with the parties and try to help them figure it out because that can make you lose the role of the neutrality. So, sometimes that’s how the guardian’s work.

Hollie Bennett:              [24:51]                Yeah, that’s absolutely correct. I mean, we’re actually statutorily prohibited from participating in mediation. The mediation process itself, we can participate in if both parties agree, but as far as trying to work with the parties to help them figure out some type of an agreement we are prohibited from doing. Now, I will tell you Lee, that as a guardian, I often will encourage both parents are both parties to communicate, to talk and to try to figure this out because going to trial is almost never in the best interest of the child. When parties walk out of the one, two, three, five day trial, where both sides have just really kind of hammered away at one another, it creates such damage in that their ability to co parent with one another, that it’s almost eerie parable. So I do, I don’t mediate, but I do always strongly encourage families in which I have been appointed as the guardian to try to figure it out as hard as that might be and not as perfect as you might want it.

Hollie Bennett:              [26:09]                But I always encourage parents to work their hardest in finding their own resolutions. Because at the end of the day, I’m not going to know their child the way they do. You’re not going to know their child the way that they do. And a judge, after hearing a few days of testimony, is not going to know their child the way that they do. They are the ones that are in the perfect position to make decisions regarding the best interest of their child. So, I always strongly advocate for families to try to find solutions.

Leigh Sellers:                 [26:46]                And another thing is if the parties do reach an agreement, the guardian has to affirm or accept the terms of the agreement on behalf of the child. We call it “sign off on it”. The guardian has to sign off on it, but you can’t really circumvent the guardian’s work by yes, avoiding court, but also avoiding the guardian. Cause you at least have a role in reading what the final suggested agreement of the parents is and saying whether or not you think it’s lacking in any way.

Hollie Bennett:              [27:18]                That’s absolutely true. The court is going to inquire with the guardian. If the guardian has read the agreement and if the guardian is in agreement with the terms of the agreement, and and there generally speaking, oftentimes when parents have worked together to create an agreement, even if I think that there would probably be a better way to do it, oftentimes guardians will agree with that agreement, even if they don’t think it’s perfect. But there are certain situations where the health, safety and wellbeing of a child by not be paramount in that agreement, and a guardian might not agree with it. Now, when that happens and you go before the court and the court says, “Madam Guardian, do you agree with the terms of this agreement?” I may say, “No, I don’t.” And I’ll have to state the reasons why, and the court may continue to affirm the agreement that they’ve reached or the court may schedule another hearing for testimony to be provided in that case, but yes, a guardian must also be in agreement with whatever terms that the parties have reached amongst one another.

Leigh Sellers:                 [28:34]                And just before we sort of close out, I was also thinking it might be helpful for people to know what sort of training and what you have to go through to actually be certified and be able to be appointed as a guardian ad litem, because it’s not just a task that people just wake up one day and say, “Oh, I want to do this.” So, let’s talk a little bit about what you’ve had to do to be put in a position to be given this responsibility by the court.

Hollie Bennett:              [29:04]                Certainly. I did this so many years ago that some things may have changed, but generally speaking, you do have to have a college education. You have to participate in some pretty extensive guardian ad litem training. It’s a multi-day training session. Annually, you have to do an annual eight hours worth of training. You have to view, from start to finish, three merits hearings or final hearings, final merits hearings, where you’re listening to testimony. And that can very difficult because sometimes you get into a trial and the parties reached an agreement in the middle of a trial. So, then you had to kind of have to start all over. That can’t count as one of your three. So, there are some pretty rigorous requirements in order to be a guardian. And then guardians, generally speaking, who are actively practicing, in addition to that one day annually of training that they do, they often will participate in other training. Trainings about substance abuse, trainings, about mental health trainings, about services that are provided in their communities.

Hollie Bennett:              [30:17]                They need to be pretty well connected within their communities so that they can make referrals for services if they feel like it’s needed.

Leigh Sellers:                 [30:27]                And I think it’s important for litigants to understand the dedication that guardians have to their role, because as a guardian, you can often really piss off one parent or the other in your role. I know most people are very respectful, but this concerns people’s children, and sometimes they don’t like what they’re hearing, but I think it’s important for people to know the work you have to go through to be appointed and the work you have to go through to continue to do this. You guys don’t take it lightly.

Hollie Bennett:              [30:59]                No. Guardians who actively practice are committed to their responsibilities to the court and to their ward. They have a heart for this. It is not an easy job. Generally speaking, one side or the other is going to probably take issue with a guardian and it is full of conflict and stress and anxiety for a guardian because they want to do what’s in the best interest of the child, and they want to see that happen. But again, there’s limitations to that, but guardians do, they have a heart for doing what’s right in regards to providing accurate, clear information to the courts and to the parties, so that good choices and good decisions can be made in regards to the children that are involved in that case.

Leigh Sellers:                 [31:55]                I know the attorneys out there really appreciate the work that guardians do, even if the litigants aren’t always as sure, because again, there they are being put under a microscope, but what would you, of all the things we’ve talked about, can you think of anything else that you just would love for somebody who’s listening to this podcast to know about guardian ad litems and their role? Questions that other people have asked you that maybe I’ve missed?

Hollie Bennett:              [32:20]                No, just in terms of what you could expect from a guardian ad litem. When a guardian is appointed to your case and you walk out of that temporary hearing, the attorneys will provide the court order and the court file to the guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem is going to review it, and then generally speaking, the guardian is going to reach out to you either by email or phone, and will schedule a time to either make a home visit or to have you come into the office individually, they’re not going to bring you in together, and begin collecting information. Getting information from you about the history of your case and getting information from the other party about the history of the case. And then the guardian is going to want to meet with the child or the children and interview them. And then we’ll make a determination from that point, what other information they need to collect and who else they need to interview.

Hollie Bennett:              [33:15]                But parties should be thinking about who they want this guardian to interview. What witnesses do they feel like is important? What information do they feel like will be important for the guardian to review? So, beginning to collect that information, getting those telephone numbers, kind of understanding, and being able to provide that information to a guardian is in particular about the history of the case in a way that’s concise, but meaningful and summative. You don’t want to spend three days going through the entire history of a marriage, but you do want kind of a basic understanding of what’s brought them to this current litigation. So, that would be just the only other piece of information is just what to expect really from the guardian once they have received that appointment.

Leigh Sellers:                 [34:05]                Hollie, I know you also serve do home studies and service guardian in the adoption cases as well, and you have your own business where you provide those services. So, even though people don’t get to pick their own guardians, I do want them to know where they can find more information about you and the roles the guardian ad litem plays. You have a website. Can you tell everyone where that website is? Where to find you?

Hollie Bennett:              [34:29]                I do. My website is Palmettosocialwork.com, and Palmetto like the tree, social work, not plural, .com. And you can find information about when you’re involved in a private action child custody case, you can find information if you’re interested and adopting about adopting, and we can provide information about the collaborative process. So, if you know you’re going to be separating you’re trying to work this out respectfully and together, and you don’t really want to go duking it out in court, there’s information about the collaborative process as well on my website

Leigh Sellers:                 [35:09]                And all of it good to check out. If anybody’s listening and talking about what a guardian ad litem does, it’s probably put a little bit of fear in people that they even want to be in this process. So, if you’re listening to this podcast before you’ve gone to court and had a guardian ad litem involved definitely go to all of the collaborative law websites and get as much information on that as possible because Hollie makes a very good point and most attorneys echo it too, that contested trials, and litigation’ do more damage to children than any custodial physical custody arrangement under the sun can do for a child. Just the conflict in and of itself is amazingly impactful and quite destructive on children, and much more difficult for them than getting one or two more overnights with the other parent will ever do. So, if you can avoid the process altogether, certainly worth exploring.

Hollie Bennett:              [36:08]                You’re absolutely correct Leigh.

Leigh Sellers:                 [36:10]                Well, Hollie, we just so much appreciate you for this time. I feel like you’ve answered a lot of questions and have been very thorough about it, and we do appreciate your work and hope to have you come again and maybe talk a little bit more about what role you play when you’re doing a collaborative case, as opposed to a contested custody case.

Hollie Bennett:              [36:30]                I would be honored, Leigh. Thank you so much for your time and for the opportunity to kind of talk with you guys today. I really appreciate it.

Leigh Sellers:                 [36:38]                Well, thank you.

Outro:                          [36:40]                So, there you have it. Another neighborhood of Splitsville explored. There’s still so much to learn here. So I hope you’ll tune in to the next episode. While Splitsville is not a fun place to be, thankfully it is full of helpful people, valuable resources and sound advice if you know where to look, see you next time.

Intro:                            [37:02]                The insights and views presented in welcome to Splitsville are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning into this podcast constitute an attorney/client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at www.Touchstonefamilylaw.com.

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