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.
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.