Every parent strives to ensure that his or her child is safe and happy. However, sometimes, during contentious divorces, the line determining what is in the best interest of the child becomes blurred and it is not clear what the child wants or what is in the child's best interest. To help clarify these objectives, the court may appoint an attorney for the child (AMC) and/or a guardian ad litem (GAL).

The AMC and the GAL serve different roles while representing children during custody disputes. An AMC is an attorney acts as an advocate on behalf of the child and ensures that the child's wishes are being heard. The AMC must honor the articulated preference of a child who is old enough to express a reasonable preference. A GAL is appointed to determine what is in the best interests of the child, and makes his or her findings known through reports to the court. The GAL, will argue the course of action he or she feels is in the child's long term best interests, psychologically or financially, despite the child's preference. The AMC and GAL are not required to argue the same position. In fact, it may be beneficial to the court to hear contradictory positions to determine what is in the child's best interests.

The court may appoint an AMC on its own motion, at the request of either party or legal guardian, or at the request of any child who is of sufficient age and capable of making an intelligent request. An AMC should be appointed by the court in cases where the custody, care, education, visitation or support of the minor child is in actual controversy, however the appointment of an AMC is completely within the discretion of the court. The court will weigh all applicable factors of a case before determining if an AMC should be appointed including: the age of the child, the arrangements involved, and the timeliness of the request.

Divorce affects the entire family. While the parent's wishes are being represented by their attorneys, the children's preferences are often lost among the disagreements. Representation by an AMC is important because it ensures that the child's preferences will be heard. By voicing the child's preferences to the court, the AMC makes sure that the child's wishes are not lost in the crossfire of feuding parents.

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