What is a “Guardian Ad Litem”? 22

Protecting The Child’s Rights in Court

The primary goal of family court proceedings is to make decisions that protect the “best interest of the child”. This can sometimes be difficult to do, especially in the case of custody issues or when a parent is making a major decision that could affect the child’s quality of life.

In these instances, the court will almost always designate a “Guardian Ad Litem”, onetype of guardianship in which an attorney is assigned to represent the child, and only the child.

Why a separate attorney?

Any attorneys hired by the parents or other parties to the action obviously have a conflict of interest. In the case of a custody battle for example, the attorneys representing Mom and Dad are both working to secure the best arrangement for their respective clients.

But this may not be what is actually best for the child.

A Guardian Ad Litem is assigned to protect the child’s interests during the proceedings. They will be allowed to ask questions and present witnesses like the other attorneys involved and may also argue a position that is completely different from the two opposing sides.

For example, in a custody battle both parents might be petitioning the court for sole custody of the child. The child however, may have decided he or she wants to live with grandparents instead.

A Guardian Ad Litem would have the opportunity to present a case showing why the child’s request should be granted. The judge is still free to rule in favor of one of the parents but he or she is also obligated to allow the child’s case to be presented and consider it equally with the rest of the evidence and testimony.

Guardian Ad Litems do not assume any day-to-day responsibilities such as overseeing the child’s education or providing consent for medical care. They are only responsible for representing the child during the legal proceedings and this responsibility ends when the proceedings are over.


  • karen

    ok got a question…I am a guradian ad litem for my 12yr old grandson. My daughter who was killed had a 12 yr old son. I became his guardian ad litem for a civil action, wrongful death. A trust was set up for the 12 yr old. As his guardian ad litem am I also able to to be his gaurdian ad litem in family court case

    • As the guardian ad litem you should have standing to bring an action in family court.

  • Loraine

    Is the guardian ad litem the same as a best interests attorney in MD? If not, what is the difference? My ex and I have already had a custody evaluation done by a social worker that went in my favor. My ex’s attorney then asked that a best interest attorney be appointed for our son. What will the best interest attorney do that that the social worker did not?

  • cheryl

    can i file for some kind of shared custody for my grandchild if the father is incarrcerated and the mother has a learning dissabiblity and neither parent is married?

  • Eunice

    I have went to court for child support and at that hearing my ex complained about me and asked if he could have his future wife be a guardian ad litem. I am worried because I am afraid if she did become one would that effect my rights for our son. I get weekends,holidays and 2 weeks a year. My ex tried to not give me my 2 weeks because he thought I should help pay for daycare or not get it. The judge told him he cant do that and assigned a mediator. Anyways I just want to know if his girlfriend gets guardian ad litem, would i loose my rights? Thanks

    • mmegin

      May I ask where you live? I would completely dought that any law official would give permission for a “girlfriend of the opposing parent” to be a GAL.


    MY step daughter has been with my husband for 10 years. When my husband divorced his first wife she moved to North Carolina and Now lives in Illinois with her 3rd husband. After i found my step daughter cutting herself, he mom is no trying to get custody of her. Court is in a few days and at our court date in June birth mom told the courts she wants her to have a Guardian Ad Litem and she would pay for it. We have no clue if she has one yet. At this point birth moms attorney referred her to someone else for herself and mom is refusing to pay the retainer. Will my husband get inrouble for not finding a GAL for his daughter? Will the court get post poned if my step daughter doesnt have a GAL? Do you think after 10year of living away from her daughter she will get custody? My step daughter keeps saying she doesnt know what she wants. Any suggestions?

  • Brenda

    My twelve year old daughter lives with me and her father has visitation rights and joint custody. We have been in and out of court many times because of his verbal abuse and neglect of my daughter. We even went through a mediator and my ex got more visitation. Now he is resorting to threats of physical violence to try and control her. After his last round of threats toward her, I got a protection order through the court in Idaho. Went to court and the judge made me go directly to a hearing because the ex objected to extending the protection order. I had no witnesses because no one told me this could happen. The judge dismissed the order. My daughter had written out a statement against her father and now she is being forced to have visitation again. Her father has a history of domestic abuse toward myself, my oldest daughter ( who is now 23 ), also my sister when she was about the same age. My oldest daughter, at the age of 14, was removed from his custody after an incident with him. I have tried to show the court that he has this history and they tell me I am mudslinging. My 12 year old is terrified of him and no one will help us. My daughter believes she should have the right to be removed permanently from his custody because of his abuse. She wants no further contact with him or his family. They are all abusers too. She wants her rights represented by a guardian ad litem. I don’t have much money and wonder if there is someone in North Idaho who can help my daughter. She is afraid he will hurt or kill her. She stated this in the paperwork for the protection order. Is there some kind of program that helps people out when they don’t have much money? I was told if I wanted to pursue this I would have to file a modification order to the divorce decree. I can’t afford a lawyer for my daughter. It would be great if someone had some information that would help us. When I file this modification order can I request a Guardian ad litem for her? Will the judge appoint one then? Would I have to pay any fees up front to get this person to talk to her? Could that person, if they felt the situation was dangerous for her, request another protection order to keep her from having visitation with him until this situation could be resolved?

    • D

      Society claims that children are precious and they should be protected, no matter what, yet custody and family law attorneys are one of the most expensive attorneys out there. Theres something really contradictary about that, don’t you think?. Then there’s the court system and DFACS with all it’s provisions and requirements for protecting abused children and proving their parents are abusive. I wish I could help you but i’m in the same position, dealing with an abusive sociopath for a parent and everywhere I turn, it’s all about money.

  • sarah

    i was forced to give my son up for adoption when he was born he is now 18 months old i have been fighting to get him back im still with his father i dont know of any lawyers that will help me in my case i live in vermont i dont know what to do the adoption was ileagal to go through i need some advice so i can know what to do

  • leona

    If you have a guardian ad litem appointed, and she mentions and applies in her report about you acting in a matriachal life.. and you found holes in her report,which you produce supporting documentation for.. And when you go to court. the judge made his ruling. After the ruling. the guardin ad litem was following the opposing sides attorney all over the court house. is this biyest?

  • Paula

    If a GAL was court appointed for my daughter, do I have to pay her fees? I never signed an agreement or anything, like I did with my attorney, however, I don’t now know if he, hired her? I get half of her fees, the court appointed her, and I have to pay. I am on SSI and don’t have any money. The court paid my half for the Court appointed psychologist, but not the GAL. Is this right? Seems immoral and unethical to me. I know it’s in the best interest of my child, but he dragged us through this mess, and didn’t even get what he wanted, and so now me, the responsible parent suffers the fees when I have two other children I am obligated too.

  • Heather

    I filed a motion and a GAL has been appointed. I paid my portion of the GAL bill from the previous court proceedings two years prior, my ex has not however. He is able to have the intial fee for the GAL waived due to disability, will they hold him responsible for this past-due amount before we are able to proceed with a new GAL? We reside in Wisconsin.

  • Julie

    My husbands mentally challenged child had a baby, the AFDC gave temporary custody of this child to my spouse and myself , I could not handle this and left my spouse when the baby was six months old. It has been three years and I have filed for divorce am I legally responsible for paying child support.

  • wildchildinwi

    What is the difference between guardian ad litem fee deposit and guardian ad litem fees? What does a petition for gal fee deposit affidavit of indigency and order waiver cover?

  • Bill

    Some people clearly don’t know the difference between “legal guardian” and “guardian ad litem”.

  • Ali

    I have been the sole parent for 12 years. Last year I lost my whole support system and became severally depressed. My daughter who was 12 years old at the time ask to go stay with her step grandmother until the next school year. Well now I am in court with a father that has never had anything to do with her in the first place but has promised the world to her. With the facts in hand knowing that I can not afford a attny has taken me to court for sole custody. My question is what do you do when you are alone can not afford a attny and make too much for legal aid???

  • Grandma

    My daughter lost custody in 2008 (Nov) in Probate court to the dad. The girls are now 8 & 9. Mom is doing 100% better (drugs never an issue). However she has filed to regain custody because dad did not bring youngest to dr after school nurse advised him to over 6 times obly when she said she would file with DSS if he did not bring her. She is going with medical neglect emotional neglect and because he does not follow the assigned visits, they come on the weekends he says. She has gone a whole month w/o having them. He also has all types people around them who he knows nothing about. Girlfriend moved in after first date and she has 2 kids she can not see or talk to. WILL THE COURTS ASSIGN A GUARDIAN AD LITEM??? They did the first time but wondering if they do it again? Will judge take into that girls want to live with mom and their 6 yr old brother who lives with mom (different dad). thanks for any input.

  • Grandma, unfortunately the GAL is in most cases untouchable. In most states the GAL has at least partial immunity. Will a GAL be assigned to this case? It is possible that a an order for appointment of Guardian ad litem will be put through by the court? It is a very real possibility. That being said you do not have to accept this order. Let the court force it upon you. Do not accept a court order. In the end you will be able to challenge the court system.

  • paternal grandma

    recently my son was petition to court to give guardianship of his 3 children to the maternal grandma. the mother is severly ill . they are also divorce. he did not want to give guardianship to her instead he asked if the paternal grandma could file instead. he was told that it was
    not giving custody and that by giving her guardianship it was only for a shor time . we both insisted that i get guardianship. we filed a separte petition and was giving the same court date as the maternal grandma.when we were interviewed by the GAL appointed by the court it
    was made known that the children were being mistreated, left on their owned and were not being fed nor were they receiving proper medical care, however, on the court date the paper we filed were no where to be found and it was also discovered that everything had been signed and guardianship was granted to the maternal grandma the day before we were to be in court. it was note by the judge that
    the maternal grandma would have to change in her treartment of the children and she was to make sure that they were properly fed, kept clean and had proper medical care. she was to continue to allow visitation as before. this never happen, we continue to get complaint from the children about mistreatment , no food and now they were told that they were going to be given to live with other family member the children continue to ask to live with us as they had previously. the only thing that happen was that the maternal grandma stated that the children were lying and that we were helping them guardianship was
    granted to her. we were told that we should have gotten a lawyer we could not afford one. Now she has stopped all visitation and we are not
    allowed to have any contact with the childen because as per papers that
    she was given and signed by the circuit court clerk she has custody.
    what do we do how can we fight this when we can’t afford a lawyer and the majority of help is given to the maternal grandma.

  • Brat

    I just recieved 98% custody of my boys and was wondering if it ok for me to get a legal gardian for them if something were to happen to me. Or whould they be forsed to live with there mother? We live in California. Would I need to have her permission for this person to be there gardian or can I just do it without her.

  • Kjad

    My sons father is recently married, we had a court date for a custody hearing, but he went behind my back and had the date changed without notifying myself, so he was granted Full Custody. The new wife and myself dont get along very well, and she informed me that she is now my sons “Power of Attorney” and i have no “Parental Rights”, i didnt sign or give any permission of this, so my question is, is this Legal? Can the Stepmother become my sons “Power of Attorney” and if so, how do i go about having it changed? PLEASE HELP! I just want to see my son! :/