Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem: What You Need to Know

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When it comes down to it, you and your child’s other parent are quite different. Whether you are married or unmarried, this may be the basis for your split. This doesn’t make either of you bad people – or bad parents. However, the differences in your parenting styles may necessitate the appointment of a guardian ad litem.

On first appearance, it may seem a bit disconcerting. You know your child is cared for and you’ll go kicking and screaming before letting someone else take custody. Here’s your first misconception. When the judge selects someone as a guardian ad litem, the goal is not to remove the child from his or her parents.

In divorce matters or other custody cases, the guardian ad litem acts to ensure the protection of the child’s best interests. According to the New Jersey Court Rules, either or both of the parents may request the appointment of a guardian ad litem – particularly in situations involving custody or parenting time. Additionally, the court itself may recognize the need for selection of someone to independently evaluate the child’s needs and interests.

In some cases, the court may determine that a lawyer is best suited to take on the role of a child’s guardian ad litem. The attorney will not be someone who represents either of the parents that are parties to the legal proceedings. Some of the duties imposed on the guardian ad litem include:

  • Meeting with the child or children who are subject of the hearings
  • Interviewing both parents
  • Speaking to experts – such as psychologists to review expert opinion
  • Conferring with attorneys for both parents
  • Presenting a report and recommendations to the court

High Conflict Matters and Guardian ad Litem Appointment

No doubt the appointment of a guardian ad litem signals something important to parents. Meanwhile, you should not confuse a guardian ad litem with a law guardian. The latter must be an attorney and generally comes into play when abuse or neglect suggests the need for termination of parental rights.

It’s an unfortunate consequence of parental separation or divorce. Children often become the victims and may be called upon to take sides. The guardian ad litem sorts through the layers of protection and attempts to provide recommendations that are truly in the best interests of the child.

Unfortunately, you may feel taken aback if the judge orders the appointment of a guardian ad litem. However, the reason that your case may be a high conflict matter may not have anything to do with your behavior. In the end, you may be comforted by someone looking out for your child’s best interests.

Contact Us                

Contact the Law Offices of Sam Stoia if you are involved in a custody or parenting time dispute. We will happily provide you with one hour of our time – at no cost. Like you, we want what is best for you and your children.