GUARDIAN AD LITEM SERVICES
Leanna Cathey, M.S., Guardian ad Litem
What is a Superior Court Guardian ad Litem?
In some child custody and visitation matters, the parties will agree or the Court will choose to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to investigate the situation and represent the children’s best interests to the Court. Often an investigation will include interviews with the children and parties, home visits, witness interviews, and a review of documentation such as school, medical, mental health records, depending on the issues presented in the case. The Guardian ad Litem will write a written report summarizing all information gathered, make recommendations to the Court regarding custody and visitation of the minor children at issue, and submit the report to the Court and to the attorneys for each party.
Often, the Guardian ad Litem report can assist the parties in negotiating settlement agreements regarding child custody, visitation, and other child-related issues. If no agreement can be reached and the matter goes before the Court, the Guardian ad Litem’s report can be submitted as evidence and the Guardian ad Litem can be called to testify. Only the Superior Court Judge can make decisions regarding a child’s custody and visitation.
I have worked as a Guardian ad Litem primarily in the four counties of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit (Catoosa, Walker, Dade, and Chattooga) for over seven years. I have been appointed to cases in the Conasauga Judicial Circuit on a limited basis. I have had the opportunity to work with many diverse families and in cases involving issues such as: physical illness, mental illness, substance abuse, grandparent custody and visitation, sexual offenses, juvenile delinquency, extended parental absence, parental alienation, and parental death. Almost all of the cases in which I am involved have extremely high conflict between the parties.
Over the years, I have developed a network of mental health professionals including counselors and psychologists who I trust to assist children and families with situations that can occur in high conflict family litigation, as well as other specialized challenges that can come up.
I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from Georgia State University, magna cum laude, in 1998 and received my Master of Science Degree in Child and Family Development from The University of Georgia in 2003. In 2003 I joined the faculty of the Division of Family, Child, and Consumer Sciences in the School of Human Ecology at Louisiana State University as a full time Instructor in the Division of Family, Child and Consumer Sciences. In 2006, I returned to Ringgold and had many opportunities to assist my husband, Adam Cathey, with his private law practice starting in 2009.
As a Guardian ad Litem, I draw on my academic research background to investigate each case. While over the years I have refined a general method that I typically follow, each case has its own nuances. I give each child and each case individual attention so that I can remain flexible and adjust my methods as each situation dictates. I strive to be child-focused, developmentally appropriate, and impartial in all of my cases.
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