What is a guardian ad litem?

Perhaps the most vital role a person can play in a courtroom is a guardian ad litem. This is the person who will make sure the proceedings are executed in a fair manner and allows the judge and/or jury more incite into what is really going on in the lives of both parties so that they are able to come to a more well informed decision than they would be able come up with alone.

A guardian ad litem is a legal term for a person appointed by the court, who is charge of looking after the best interest of a person who is legally or mentally unable to perform this task themselves. They are an impartial party whose duty is to protect the rights of their ward during any sort of legal action. When the legal action has concluded, the guardianship is terminated.

A guardian ad litem is given to a minor or other person deemed by the court as unable to speak for themselves during a trial, such as a mentally handicapped individual.  This is to prevent the opposing council from taking advantage of that person.

The responsibilities of a guardian ad litem start with an investigation.  They observe their charge to learn more about them and their situation so they can figure out the best way to help them. Then, to gather further information, they spend time with and interview their charge, interview the charge’s family, and people around their charge. They may also review medical records, mental health records, or any other records that are relevant to the case, of their charge and of the other parties involved in the case. They then take this information and make written reports to the court, testify during trial, and make recommendations to the court as to how the case should be handled.

The duty of a guardian ad litem is also of an officer of the court. If there are any temporary orders the court places on a party, they’re responsible for making sure that everyone involved in compliant. If one or both parties are not compliant in any way, the guardian ad litem is mandated to report this immediately to the court so that action can be taken.

The role of a guardian ad litem is not strictly legal. Especially in the case of children, they act as a friend, a role-model, and a buffer between their charge and the harsher realities of court. They spend time with their charges and gain their trust so that they can not only fulfill their legal needs but their need for compassion as human during a very trying time.

The requirements to become a guardian ad litem vary greatly by state.  Some states require they be an attorney, a doctor, a social worker, or a trained individual. The minimum age, depending on local law may be 18 – 21. The most important thing, however, is that the person be empathetic and willing to do everything in their power to see that the needs of their charge is met.