If divorce is a trying experience for the splitting spouses, imagine the stress on the children. In some cases, they may even blame themselves for the breakup.
Judges recognize that there are times they need to step in and provide children of divorces with legal assistance. The advisor who speaks for such children in court is the guardian ad litem.
Parents involved in divorce cases may be surprised to learn that the judge has assigned a someone else to represent their child. For those parents who may be confused as to what a guardian ad litem is and why judges use them, following are some much needed answers their concerns.
What is a guardian ad litem?
Judges appoint guardians ad litem to represent those who cannot do so for themselves. Children and mentally impaired persons are the usual parties. In divorce suits, this type of guardian interviews parents, children, friends and teachers to ascertain the best interests of the child in question. Then, they present the findings to the judge, who subsequently makes a decision on behalf of the minor. Once court settles the divorce, the guardian steps down. It is in this manner that the ad litem differs from the more familiar legal guardian, who retains authority until the child reaches majority age.
Family law attorneys usually fulfill this role since they are knowledgeable about the courtroom procedures. There are some instances in which social workers or counselors fulfill part of the role. In certain jurisdictions, guardians ad litem have to undergo specialized training to ensure proficiency in handling these sensitive cases.
Guardians ad litem perform various duties to represent their clients. These Include:
- calling and questioning witnesses
- completing legal forms
- testifying in court
- serving court summons to witnesses
Why do judges assign guardians ad litem?
In most instances, judges choose a guardian ad litem when there are extenuating circumstances in the divorce suit. These can include:
- paternity questions
- possibility of domestic violence
- child sexual abuse
- child physical or mental abuse
- visitation problems
- custody disputes
Surviving a Trying Divorce
As seen here, when the court decides that it needs a guardian ad litem, that means the divorce has some serious complications. The welfare of the child is in question. As such, it is imperative that any parent involved in a divorce situation, in which the judge has retained this kind of legal expert, speak candidly with their divorce lawyer about life in the home. The ultimate goal is to create as less stress upon all parties as possible.