What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
A guardian ad litem is appointed by a court in order to represent the best interests of the child. Either parent can request that a guardian ad litem be appointed for their child, or the court can appoint a guardian ad litem for the child. While some states require that a guardian ad litem be an attorney, other states’ courts will appoint guardian ad litems who are not attorneys, but who have specialized training. A guardian ad litem’s role is to investigate and recommend the child custody and/or visitation arrangements that are in the best interest of the child.
The investigation performed by a guardian ad litem is typically not as extensive as that which would be performed by a custody evaluator, but will involve interviews with the parents, children, and any other relevant family members, caregivers, or teachers that have frequent contact with the child. The guardian ad litem is also likely to investigate the criminal background of both parents, as well as information related to any complaints that the parents have about one another. For instance, if mother is complaining that father should not visit with the children overnight because he is using drugs, the guardian ad litem can recommend that the court order drug testing for one or both parents. Likewise, if one parent is complaining that the other parent does not ensure that the child’s schoolwork is completed, or that the child gets to school on time, the guardian ad litem is likely to look at the child’s grade reports and attendance records, and perhaps follow up with school teachers or counselors.
Contact between a child and a guardian ad litem often depends on the age of the child. A guardian ad litem is more likely to simply observe younger children with each of their parents. On the other hand, older children will have the opportunity to speak with a guardian ad litem about their concerns, wants, and needs. While a guardian ad litem advocates for the children’s best interest, however, a guardian ad litem does not necessarily advocate for what the children want, which can be a major difference.
A guardian ad litem also has the power to submit written information to the court, make home visits, and subpoena and question witnesses during court hearings. In any child custody or visitation hearing, the guardian ad litem is an important witness, and will typically submit a written recommendation to the court prior to the hearing for everyone’s review. While the court is not required to follow the recommendation of the guardian ad litem, his or her recommendation can often carry a lot of weight with the judge.
Although a guardian ad litem is appointed by the court, the court may order one or both parents to contribute to the cost of the guardian ad litem, which may be several hundred dollars. The cost for a guardian ad litem, however, is much less than would be paid for a custody evaluator.
Additional Family Law Articles
- Saying I Do: With a Prenuptial Agreement
- The Difference Between Marriage and Civil Unions
- Common Law Marriage
- The Legal Aspects of Getting Separated
- What to Bring to Your Divorce Consultation
- How to Go Through a Divorce
- How to Avoid Having Your Prenuptial Agreement Declared Invalid
- Divorce and Division of Assets
- Distribution of Property Upon Divorce
- When and How do Courts Order Spousal Support?
- Collaborative Law...Is it Right for You?
- How to Change Your Name
- How to Establish Paternity
- Termination of Parental Rights
- Custody Evaluations
- What Factors Does the Judge Consider When He or She Makes a Decision About Child Custody?
- An Explanation of Reasonable Visitation
- Do I Need a Lawyer to Establish or Enforce a Child Support Order?
- What can I do if my ex won't let me see our child?
- Intercepting Tax Refunds When a Parent Fails to Pay Child Support
- Enforcing a Child Support Order Out of State
- Prenuptial Agreements: Potential Benefits for Couples Who Stay Married
- Badmouthing the Other Parent
- Will my sexual orientation prevent me from adopting a child?
- How to Establish Legal Paternity
- The Details of Proposition 8
- The Legal Future of Proposition 8
- What Happens When the Wedding is Called Off
- What is the Difference Between a Same-Sex Marriage, a Domestic Partnership, and a Civil Union?
- Can Parental Rights be Terminated When a Parent is Incarcerated?
- Do You Need An Attorney... or Can You Represent Yourself?
- How do I decide if I need a lawyer in a custody case?
- Infidelity and Divorce
- How to Avoid an Ugly Divorce
- Do I Need the Other Parent's Permission to Move Out-of-State With Our Child?
- The Best Interests of the Child Standard and Grandparent Visitation
- Enforcing a Child Support Order
- Calculating Child Support
- What to Look For in a Divorce Attorney
- Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Don't Get to See My Children?
- How to Modify a Child Support Order
- Domestic Violence Law
- What is Due Process? ... Basic Rights and Fundamental Fairness
- Can The State Terminate A Parent's Rights Over Their Children?
- What Is Required To Obtain A Marriage License?
- How Long Does It Take To Get Divorced?
- What Is A Prenuptial Agreement?
- What Factors Are Used To Calculate Child Support Payments? Can The Amount Of The Payment Change Over Time?
- How Do I File For Divorce?
- Does Every State Follow The Same Formula In Calculating Child Support?
- What Is A Common Law Marriage?
- Do Both Parties To A Premarital Agreement Need A Lawyer?
- Who Can Solemnize A Marriage?
- When Does An Unmarried Father Acquire Parental Rights?
- Is One Spouse Liable For The Debts The Other Incurred Before The Marriage?
- What Is Child Support, And How Is Child Support Determined?
- What About Same Sex Marriage – Is This Legal?
- Can A Prenuptial Agreement Be Modified After Marriage?
- What Is The Legal Definition Of Marriage?
- What Is The Difference Between a "Fault" and a "No Fault" Divorce?
Search LawInfo's Family Law Resources
State Family Law Articles
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina