As difficult as divorce is for the spouses involved, it is often even more devastating for children of the couple. A child may lose their sense of security as their family dynamic shifts and, as a result, can feel alone, scared or even—mistakenly—to blame. These are natural and common reactions to experiencing divorce.

However, what if the child’s safety—not just their feeling of security—is truly in jeopardy? If you suspect or know that any kind of abuse or neglect is happening at the hands of your former spouse, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem in your custody case. You can request this appointment if you feel it is necessary.

What is a guardian ad litem?

A guardian ad litem is an attorney who is hired to represent the best interests of your child in a custody dispute, particularly in cases of a contentious divorce or when there is any suspicion or presence of abuse or neglect. The court understands how vital it is to protect the innocent. This is one way the court has developed to ensure that a child’s wishes are considered, if they are of an age to decide what they want, and that their needs are met throughout a difficult custody battle and in their daily life.

What does a guardian ad litem do?

A guardian ad litem’s role is to represent the legal interests of the child. The court will likely be able to provide you with a list of attorneys who serve in this capacity. The specific duties of this role include:

  • Meeting with the child regularly to ascertain their wishes and discover any important information that the court needs to know about their care
  • Examine court records and relevant psychological records, if there are any, to understand the health and mental state of the child
  • Participate in custody proceedings, acting as the child’s advocate
  • Investigate the child’s life to understand how they are being treated and, specifically, if they are being mistreated
  • Speak to witnesses with information about the quality of caregiving and mental state of the child, such as parents, teachers and more
  • Recommend custody arrangements to the court based on the child’s wishes and the investigation conducted
  • Explain the custody proceedings to the child in a manner befitting the child’s age and maturity level

While it is an additional legal fee, a guardian ad litem is well worth the cost to conscientious parents with real concerns about their child’s wellbeing.