(US law/generally) A Guardian is simply a person who has the legal authority to care for another person. The term Ad Litem is a legal term used to refer to the appointment by a court of one party to act in a lawsuit on behalf of another party. Family court cases regarding guardianship can become particularly complicated and greatly affect the lives of everyone involved. This is where a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) can help.
Typically, a judge will appoint a professional from a list of GALs who are listed with the court to perform such evaluations/investigations. Attorneys who are representing the parties in a dispute might jointly request the appointment of a particular GAL. GALs are expected to have experience in conducting court-appointed evaluations/investigations, participate in regular educational conferences or workshops, and adhere to the relevant guidelines or standards of their profession. GAL evaluates and/or investigates issues related to the court’s order. Typically, the GAL will conduct and document interviews, review records, collect all relevant information from collateral sources, and then submit a report to the court. The GAL is expected to maintain care in protecting the information collected during the course of an evaluation/investigation. The GAL report is released only with the permission of the court. The rules governing GAL work vary from state to state.
While courts always strive to preserve and enact rulings that are in the best interests of any children involved, knowing the true best interest of minor children can be difficult to determine. This is where the services of a certified guardian ad litem are warranted. Any family court situation where the welfare of minors are involved, retaining the services of a family attorney who is certified guardian ad litem is a good idea as as these cases can be complex.
A certified guardian ad litem is not only called in for the counsel and expertise pertaining to minor children. If there is a situation where the care or welfare of a mentally challenged or incapacitated adult is at stake, a certified guardian ad litem may be of benefit also.
As part of your guardian ad litem services, the certified attorney will gather all pertinent information through interviewing and observing the child or children, and interviewing the parents also. Then, usually all are observed and interviewed together. People close to the family, such as extended family and teachers, are also interviewed when warranted. After gathering information, a certified guardian ad litem will generally inform the court of the child’s views and wishes; but the guardian ad litem does not advocate those views as being in the best interests or sway the court one way or another. They merely present them to the court to be taken into consideration. This allows for a judge to have all the impartial information they need to make the most informed and beneficial decision possible.
When facing a difficult custody dispute, a modification in custody due to relocation of a parent, a motion to terminate parental rights, or any other situation where the services of a certified guardian ad litem is needed or recommended, it is highly advice that you seek the help of a professional family law attorney. The professional service of an experienced attorney can be the impartial and thorough choice to see your case through.