An individual, usually an attorney, appointed by the court to represent a child's best interests, often in relation to custody. Social workers will present the state's view of who should be given CUSTODY, and parents may also retain attorneys to represent their rights.
The guardian ad litem may also be a lay person who is dedicated to helping children. The guardian ad litem is given information from social workers and other authorities and may perform additional investigations as needed before making a recommendation to the court.
The guardian ad litem should contact attorneys to gather additional information from them and determine the status of the case and what problems exist. In addition, the guardianad litem should also ask for copies of affidavits and pleadings related to the case.
The guardian ad litem should meet with the parents, making it clear that he or she is not their attorney and information they provide will not be held in confidence. Other actions the guardian ad litem should take are to determine and discuss parental views on custody and to gather background information on the child's education, activities, religion and other relevant factors.
The guardian ad litem should also investigate any possible problems that could harm the child, such as drug or alcohol abuse or the battering of a spouse, if the child were placed with the family. (See also FOSTER CARE; FOSTER PARENT.)
Richard J. Podell, "The Role of the Guardian Ad Litem: Advocating the Best Interests of the Child," Trial, April 1989, 31-34.
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©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.