How Much Does a Parent’s Employment Matter to a Guardian ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a neutral and impartial individual appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child in a custody or family law case. 

While the parent’s employment status is an important part of the GAL’s assessment, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. The GAL will not make a custody recommendation based on the parent’s employment alone.

The primary responsibility of the GAL is to conduct an investigation and gather relevant information about the child’s circumstances, including the home environment, the parents’ employment, relationships with parents, school, and any other factors that may impact the child’s well-being.

10 Ways A Parent’s Job Factors into a Guardian ad Litem in Custody Recommendation

When a Guardian ad Litem is making a custody recommendation, employment is one of the many important factors they consider in assessing the best interests of the child. 

The guardian ad litem will examine both parents’ jobs and work histories. 

Here are ten (10) ways a parent’s job and employment factor into a GAL’s custody recommendation:

1. Job Stability and Ability to Financially Provide For The Child

A GAL will evaluate the stability of each parent’s employment situation. The Gal will look to see how long the parent has been working for their employer and how much money they are earning. 

A parent with a stable job is more likely to provide a consistent and reliable environment for the child. 

Employment also affects the parent’s ability to financially support the child, which is essential for meeting the child’s basic needs.

2. The Impact of The Job on Time Availability

The GAL will also look at the time of job each parent has. The nature of a parent’s job can impact the time they can spend with the child. 

A demanding job with long hours might limit the parent’s availability for parenting responsibilities and involvement in the child’s life. 

Conversely, a flexible job may allow more quality time with the child.

3. The Impact of the Parent’s Job on Their Emotional Well-being

A parent’s job satisfaction and work-related stress can influence their emotional well-being, which, in turn, affects their ability to be an effective and emotionally available caregiver for the child.

4. The Job’s Impact on Parental Involvement

The GAL will also look to see how the parent’s job will impact their involvement with the child. 

Is the job during the night shift? Does the job take the parent out of town overnight?

Employment can impact a parent’s ability to be actively involved in the child’s education, extracurricular activities, medical appointments, and other aspects of their life. 

A parent with a more flexible job may have greater opportunities to be present for these important events.

5. Work-Life Balance: Juggling Responsibilities at Work and at Home

The GAL will examine how well each parent handles the responsibilities of working and being a parent.

A parent’s employment status can influence their ability to strike a healthy work-life balance. A Guardian ad Litem will evaluate how a parent manages work commitments alongside childcare responsibilities. 

Achieving this balance is crucial for ensuring the child’s needs are met without compromising the parent’s professional life.

6. How The Job Impacts The Parent’s Involvement in Education

Employment status may also impact a parent’s involvement in the child’s education. 

Active participation in a child’s schooling, such as attending parent-teacher conferences or school events, demonstrates commitment and concern for the child’s academic progress. 

A Guardian ad Litem observes how a parent’s job affects their involvement in the child’s educational journey.

7. Stability and Consistency in Routine

A stable job often translates into a consistent routine for the child, providing a sense of security and predictability. This consistency can positively impact a child’s emotional development and behavior. 

A Guardian ad Litem will assess how a parent’s employment contributes to establishing a stable and predictable daily routine.

8. The Job as a Role Model Influence

A parent’s job can serve as a positive role model for the child. A Guardian ad Litem will observe how a parent’s career choices, work ethic, and professional values can impact the child’s perceptions and aspirations.

9. Safety and Stability of the Work Environment

If a parent’s job poses potential risks to the child’s safety or exposes them to harmful environments, it can raise concerns for the GAL.

10. The Impact of Employment on Benefits For The Child

The GAL will also look to see if the parent’s job provides fringe benefits that can benefit the child. 

Employment often provides access to various support resources, such as health insurance or employee assistance programs, which can indirectly benefit the child’s well-being.

Unemployment’s Impact on GAL Custody Recommendations

Unemployment can impact a GAL’s recommendation in custody cases. When a parent is unemployed, it becomes a relevant factor for the GAL to consider in assessing the best interests of the child. Here’s how unemployment may influence a GAL’s recommendation:

  • Financial Stability: Unemployment may raise concerns about a parent’s ability to provide financially for the child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, and education. The GAL will evaluate how the parent plans to support the child during the period of unemployment and their prospects for finding new employment.

  • Stability of Living Situation: Unemployment may lead to housing instability or potential disruptions in the child’s living arrangements. The GAL will assess whether the parent has a stable living environment during their unemployment and how it may affect the child’s living situation.

  • Parental Stress and Emotional Well-being: Losing a job can be emotionally challenging for a parent, which could impact their emotional well-being and ability to cope with the stress of the custody case. The GAL will consider how the parent’s emotional state might affect their parenting capabilities.

  • Availability for Parenting: Unemployment may affect a parent’s schedule and availability to care for the child. The GAL will examine how the parent plans to spend their time and whether they can dedicate sufficient attention to the child’s needs during this period.

  • Job Search Efforts: The GAL may evaluate the unemployed parent’s efforts to find new employment. Demonstrating active job-seeking behavior and participating in job training programs can positively impact the GAL’s perception.

  • Child’s Needs: If the child has special needs or requires particular support, the GAL will consider whether the unemployed parent can adequately meet those needs.

It’s important to note that while unemployment can be a relevant factor, the GAL will also consider other aspects of the parent’s life, relationship with the child, parenting skills, mental and physical health, and any history of domestic violence or substance abuse.

The primary goal remains to advocate for the child’s best interests and ensure that the custody arrangement serves the child’s safety, well-being, and overall happiness.

If a parent is unemployed, they may have an opportunity to present their plans for seeking new employment, securing stable housing, and addressing any potential challenges that may arise due to their unemployment.

The court and GAL will assess these factors in the context of the child’s needs and the overall circumstances of the case when making custody recommendations.


In conclusion, a parent’s employment status is a crucial aspect considered by a Guardian ad Litem when determining the best interests of the child. 

Beyond financial support, employment impacts various facets of the child’s life, including emotional stability, stability during transitions, and access to educational and extracurricular opportunities. 

Parents must prioritize their child’s well-being, demonstrating a commitment to providing a stable and nurturing environment.

By doing so, they can positively influence custody decisions and ensure the child’s best interests are upheld.


Q. How does the GAL determine if a parent’s employment is stable enough for custody considerations? 

The GAL assesses factors such as job history, income stability, and the presence of any recent job changes to evaluate a parent’s employment stability.

Q. Does unemployment affect a GAL’s custody recommendations? 

Unemployment may raise concerns about a parent’s ability to financially support the child, potentially influencing a GAL’s custody recommendation.

Q. How does a Guardian ad Litem investigate a parent’s employment situation? 

A Guardian ad Litem interviews the parent, examines financial records, and may seek expert opinions on the parent’s job prospects.

Q. What can a parent do to demonstrate their commitment to the child despite their job demands? 

A parent can prioritize spending quality time with the child, participate in school activities, and maintain open communication with the Guardian ad Litem.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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