In cases involving the welfare of a child, the Court may appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interest of the child. A Guardian ad Litem is a neutral third-party who is appointed to conduct an investigation and make findings on what is in the best interest of the child or children involved in the case. A Guardian ad Litem may be appointed in a variety of cases, including the following: dissolution of marriage; legal separation; paternity; modification of custody or parenting time; relocation; guardianships; juvenile cases; adoptions; or a case brought by the state to terminate the parental rights of one or both parents. A Guardian ad Litem may be requested by the parents or appointed by the Court on its own motion.
The main function of the Guardian ad Litem is to represent the best interests of the child or children. While many Guardians ad Litem are also attorneys, a Guardian ad Litem is not an “attorney” for the child. It is not necessary for a Guardian ad Litem to be an attorney. An individual may become a Guardian ad Litem by taking the approved training, regardless of their profession.
A Guardian ad Litem may be asked to investigate the child’s overall circumstances and make broad recommendations as to what is in the child’s best interest, or the Guardian ad Litem may be tasked with investigating one or two issues that are concerning to the Court. During the Guardian ad Litem’s investigation, he or she will speak to the parties involved in the case, meet with the child, speak to the child’s providers, school, and family members, conduct home visits, and may run background checks or review medical or mental health records for the parents. The Guardian ad Litem may recommend needed services for the family or child. At the conclusion of their investigation, the Guardian ad Litem will inform the Court of the findings from their investigation and their recommendations. The Court will use the Guardian ad Litem’s recommendation as guidance in the case.
The length of the Guardian ad Litem’s involvement will vary drastically, depending on the complexity of the issues the Guardian ad Litem has been appointed to investigate. The Guardian ad Litem may only need a few days to conduct its investigation, or they may need months.
It is important for parties to understand the role of a Guardian ad Litem in their case. The attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff P.C. have experience acting as a Guardian ad Litem in a case as well as experience representing one of the parties when a Guardian ad Litem has been appointed.