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Guardianships

Guardianship is a legal relationship between a person who has been adjudicated to be unable to make decisions on his or her own behalf and a person appointed by a court to make those decisions. The guardian is called a "guardian of the person", or "guardian of the estate" or both.

Guardian Ad Litem - called GAL's - are attorneys. Under Wisconsin law, Guardian Ad Litems must be licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin. The role of a GAL in a divorce is to represent and protect the best interests of the child or children of the marriage. On rare occasions, a Guardian ad Litem can be appointed to represent the best interests of an adult who has not been adjudicated incompetent. Seek the advice of your family law attorney in cases where you believe your spouse needs a guardian due to medical illness, accident or the incidents of aging.

Grandparent provision in Guardianship statutes

In a situation where one of the child's parent dies, a grandparent or stepparent can petition the court for visitation with the child under the guardianship statutes. The request will be granted only if the parties have notice, there has been a hearing and the court finds that visitation is in the child's best interest. Whenever possible, the court shall consider the wishes of the minor, but this does not mean the child will testify. The court has enforcement powers to see that an order for visitation under this statute is honored. This section of the statues applies to every minor in the state of Wisconsin whose parent or parents are deceased, no matter the date of the death(s).

Guardian ad Litem

Guardians ad litem are appointed in contested custody or placement matters and are sometimes appointed in post-judgmentplacement or custody modification actions. The guardian ad litem represents the best interests of the child, not necessarily what the child wants. A frequent question people ask is at what age is the child entitled to make his or her own decisions about where he or she wants to live. Answer: age 18.

The court will order who pays for the guardian ad litem, but generally the parties split the cost equally or the cost is ordered to be paid out of marital assets.

In some counties, a guardian ad litem may be appointed prior to referral to a case study with the family court counseling service, but often the referral is made at the same time as the GAL is appointed. The GAL is not a witness, so often the GAL will do interviews only in the presence of the family court counselor or social worker appointed to do the custody study. In most cases, the GAL and the family court counselor work together to issue a recommendation on the contested custody and/or placement matters. As a general rule, it is an uphill burden to persuade a court to deviate much from the recommendation of the GAL and the family court counselor if they have been thorough in interviewing the parties, their collateral witnesses, the children and the persons, institutions and organizations in which the children are involved.

Attorney Kathleen Reiley - GAL

Attorney Kathleen Reiley handled many guardianships and served as a GAL in the past.

For more information about guardianships and Gal's, call Attorney Kathleen Reiley (414-369-6309) or send Kathleen Reiley an email.

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