What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
A Guardian Ad Litem is someone, usually an attorney appointed by the court to represent the best interest of the child during a custody dispute. If the court is concerned that the child’s best interest in not being taken into consideration by the parents, it will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem. Either parent also has the right to request a Guardian Ad Litem if they feel their child needs the protection of a court appointed Guardian.
What is the Role of the Guardian Ad Litem?
The Guardian Ad Litem builds a relationship with the child and parents in order to investigate the family dynamics and recommend the appropriate child custody and visitation arrangements that he/she feels would be in the best interest of the child in question.
During the investigation the Guardian Ad Litem will interview the child, parents and anyone else involved in the child’s life. For instance if a child is school aged the Guardian Ad Litem would conduct interviews with the child’s teachers and school counselors. The idea is to form an informed opinion about the child, the relationship with each parent and any negative consequences those relationships may cause.
For instance, if the father feels the mother is having men over for the night and exposing the child to unhealthy behaviors the Guardian Ad Litem will interview neighbors and the child and can recommend to the court that the mother not be allowed to have members spend the night when the child is in the house.
How Important is the Opinion of the Guardian Ad Litem?
The Guardian Ad Litem is a court appointed witness. His/her report to the court will be taken seriously as will any witness either parent has during the custody hearing. In the end, the judge will take into consideration the report made by the Guardian Ad Litem and all other witnesses when deciding a custody case.