During a divorce or child custody hearings, you may hear the term “guardian ad litem” during the proceedings. This is particularly true if there was abuse or violence in the relationship. The court appoints an unrelated, objective individual to represent the best interests of a minor child during any type of court proceedings to be their “guardian at law.”
Commonly appointed for divorces, guardian ad litems may also be appointed for child custody cases, child abuse and neglect cases, as well as cases regarding parental rights and responsibilities.
Guardian ad litems are frequently appointed for mentally ill or disabled adults, to protect the best interests of the adult in the same way.
Who May Be A Guardian Ad Litem
Individuals appointed are usually non-lawyers, and frequently have an educational background in child welfare. A judge can appoint an attorney to represent a child’s interests if needed. In Fort Worth, social workers and individuals in related professions can be appointed. A court can also appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) as well. Family members and relatives are not appointed.
The Texas Family Code defines “guardian ad litem” as “a person appointed to represent the best interests of a child.” The term includes:
- A volunteer advocate from a charitable organization described by the court as the child’s guardian ad litem
- A professional, other than an attorney, who holds a relevant professional license and whose training relates to the determination of a child’s best interests
- An adult having the competence, training, and expertise determined by the court to be sufficient to represent the best interests of the child
- An attorney ad litem appointed to serve in the dual role.
Note that a guardian ad litem is not the same as a case worker or
The entire Texas Family code regarding the guardian ad litem is available here as a PDF.
What The Guardian Ad Litem Does
Children become a “ward of the court,” and the guardian ad litem is tasked with pushing for the ward’s best interests. In the middle of adversarial court proceedings such as a divorce,
This can include many functions that parents would normally take on, such as:
- Review the child’s medical care and records
- Review the child’s school records
- Interview the child in an age-appropriate manner (>4 yrs of age)
- Speak with individuals who know the child and his/her history
- Encourage alternative dispute resolution when necessary
- Assist with any other duties assigned by the court
The guardian ad litem may attend court proceedings and receive copies of pleadings for review, interface with CPS staff and caseworkers as needed, and testify on behalf of the child in court.
The child’s best guardian ad litem interests are represented separately by a court-appointed attorney ad litem. While the guardian ad litem can attend court, the attorney ad litem is actually legal counsel that represents the child in court.
A Compassionate Attorney For Your Family Law Needs
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who are dealing with child custody issues. As a divorcee herself, Wendy understands the process as well as the difficulties involved. We represent both men and women. We’ll make sure you’re treated fairly and will protect your interests and your children. Visit our Mansfield office at 2363 HWY 287 N, Suite 108, use our online contact form, or