The most emotionally charged issue in any divorce action concerns custody and visitation matters. Ideally, custody matters will be settled between the parties with the help of their attorneys, and often times, with the additional help of a qualified mediator. However, there are those occasions when despite everything, well-intentioned parents simply cannot reach an agreement concerning custody. When that happens, the parties will present their case to a Superior Court Judge, who is charged with making the decision as to which parent will have primary custody of the child(ren). Judges have broad discretion concerning custody matters. Not only will they determine legal custody (meaning who makes major decisions for the children), they will also determine physical custody (who will be the primary custodial parent, and how much parenting time the non-custodial parent will have with their children). Judges make these determinations taking many different factors into consideration, and they base their determination on what they believe to be in the best interest of the child(ren).
Because some custody determinations can be very difficult to make, they will sometimes appoint a guardian ad litem (also known as a “GAL”) to represent the children’s best interests. A GAL is a court appointed attorney or advocate who will conduct an investigation, and then make a recommendation to the court as to what custody arrangements they believe are in the children’s best interests. Alternatively, the judge may recommend a custody evaluation by a licensed counselor or psychologist. Either way, while a GAL or psychologist will make a recommendation to the court, the final decision will always be made by the judge.
In addition to being experienced with complex custody matters, Lisa Sowers is also an experienced guardian ad litem. Her extensive insight and experience helps her navigate her clients through this highly emotional process to a successful outcome, all the while taking the children’s best interests into consideration.