Pennsylvania courts prefer couples and families to work out their differences together. But some relationships are especially heated and volatile, and parents cannot agree on what custody visitation, child support and other plans are best for the child. Sometimes, there are charges of abuse and countercharges.
In such cases, a Pennsylvania court may appoint someone known as a guardian ad litem.
A guardian ad litem’s mission
Some adults hire their family’s go-to attorney many times to deal with legal needs. But the judge appoints the guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests only for this one case, such a custody decision. The phrase “ad litem” is Latin and means “for the case.”
The guardian ad litem does not represent the court. They also do not represent a parent. Their only client and sole focus are supposed to be the best interest of the child.
Working with and for your child
By Pennsylvania law, the guardian ad litem must explain the case to your child as clearly as they can, given the practical limits of a child’s understanding of court cases. The explanation will likely include a sense of what will happen next.
The guardian ad litem must tell the court about what the child wants to happen by the end of the case.
But as an attorney, the guardian ad litem has an obligation to represent their client thoroughly and zealously. But they do not have to argue for the outcome the child wants. They must argue for whatever is in the child’s best interest.
Arguing for the best outcome for your child
The court gives the guardian ad litem many of the powers and responsibilities that the parents’ attorneys have. They can investigate, look at court materials, get school records, and review physical and mental health records.
There is generally no dramatic courtroom scene as seen on television, with or without the guardian ad litem. When their investigations are complete, the guardian ad litem typically writes a thorough report and provides it to the court on the child’s behalf.