A Guardian ad Litem is a person trained to represent the best interests of a child. Guardian ad Litems are generally volunteers who are assigned to advocate for a child commonly for supervised visitation situations and child abuse cases.
Guardian ad Litems have two basic roles:
- Supervised Visitation – Supervised visitation requires that a third party be present when a child visits a non-custodial parent. A Guardian ad Litem can act as that third party.
- Neglect and Abuse – In cases where a child has been neglected or abused, Guardian ad Litems may be assigned to gather information from the parents and children. Based on this information, a Guardian ad Litem can make recommendations to the court about where the child should be placed.
Generally, any adult with good judgment, common sense and a compassionate heart can be a Guardian ad Litem. They are volunteers who must complete a training process run by the court.
Guardian ad Litems are not lawyers. However, in certain situations, Guardian ad Litems may testify in court on behalf of the child:
- Child Custody and Modification Hearings – In court, the Guardian ad Litem will be asked to explain what has occurred during the supervised visitations they have been present for.
- Abuse/Neglect Court Proceedings – In court, the Guardian ad Litem will be asked for his or her opinion on the needs of the child and how they can be met. The Guardian ad Litem may also be asked to explain his or her observations of interactions between the child and family members.
If your child has been assigned a Guardian ad Litem, you may wish to consult with a family or criminal lawyer, especially if there are criminal charges against you for neglect or abuse. Working with an experienced lawyer can help you understand your rights and help you deal with the complicated court system.