Do You Need a Guardian Ad Litem? What You Need to Know

Child custody cases can be very complex. In many cases, parents can sometimes agree on the custody arrangements. In others, a judge has to make those decisions for you. A judge or you as the parent may also utilize a guardian ad litem during the process to make sure the best interests of the children are met. The following are some things you should know about a guardian ad litem:

What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem is a representative who represents children to ensure their rights are legally protected. They act as the voice of your child in court. A guardian ad litem is a trained professional, often an attorney, who advocates for a child during any type of legal proceeding, including divorce and child custody.

What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do in a Custody Case?

A guardian ad litem will evaluate the dynamics of your family to best represent your child's needs and interests. He or she will interview each parent as well as the child. You may interview individually or together, depending on the circumstances. The guardian ad litem may also wish to interview extended family members and other pertinent people in the child's life. The guardian ad litem can also review your child's medical records, notes from the child's therapist, and school records. The goal is to gather as much information as necessary to get to know your child and your family dynamic to best advocate for your child.

Once the guardian ad litem has collected the necessary information, they will have a better idea of the well-being of your child to help a judge when making custody decisions. This includes the child's relationship with both parents and siblings, how a child is impacted at school, the child's mental health, and any domestic issues the child may have experienced in the home. The guardian ad litem may also gauge your child's custody preferences. In addition, the guardian ad litem will obtain a child's testimony outside the courtroom to protect the child.

How Do You Get a Guardian Ad Litem?

You can ask for a guardian ad litem in your custody case, but a judge has the final say as to whether or not it is necessary in your case. Some states will automatically appoint a guardian ad litem whenever there are allegations of abuse. Keep in mind that a guardian ad litem is not a free service. You have to pay for using a guardian ad litem in your case. However, it may be a justifiable expense in more complex custody cases.

For more information, contact a family law firm near you to learn more about guardian ad litems.