What Is a Guardian ad Litem, and How Can It Help Me?
13 Feb 2017
By Emily Chambers for CoilLaw
If you are going through a divorce with children, you may have heard the term Guardian ad Litem, or perhaps the court is asking to assign one to your case. Guardian ad Litem is Latin for “guardian for the lawsuit.” It is a specially licensed attorney that is selected by the court to represent minors (children under 18) during a lawsuit. Their job is to represent the child or children so that their rights and best interests are protected. They are useful in divorce, modification, paternity, guardianship, adoption, and other domestic cases where children are involved. They are either pro bono (free) or their fees are split by each parent–or the parties involved in the case.
How Guardian ad Litem Works
A Guardian ad Litem must meet separately with the minor(s) and then can choose to meet with each parent, any live-in paramours or step-parents, and any therapists involved. They also may speak to the attorneys representing the parents or guardians. Their main goal is to look at the complete picture of the family situation and be able to advise the court on several different factors, including:
- The minor(s)’ current relationship with each parent
- The stability of each parent’s home
- Where the minor(s) should mainly live and how much contact they should have with each parent
- Whether any harm is being done to the minor(s) and by whom
- If it is in the minor(s)’ best interest to start, continue, or stop therapy
The Guardian ad Litem not only takes into account what is best for the child, but also what the child desires. Especially if the child is in their teens, the Guardian ad Litem would consider them more able to have a say in what they want as far as living situation. The tricky part is to be able to see beyond that and make sure what the child wants is also actually what is best for them based on the living situation options and what the relationships currently are with the parents. This is when talking to the child’s therapist, if there is one, is a great resource.
Guardian ad Litems are chosen from either the state’s Office of Guardian ad Litem or from private Guardian ad Litems. Though they can only be assigned by the court, you or your attorney can request the court for one and show why it would be important for your case.
Getting Help with Your Utah Divorce Case
If you are looking into a divorce and you have children, we’re here for you. You need to ensure you consult with a competent family law attorney that understands the issues and needs of children during a divorce. At CoilLaw, LLC, Salt Lake City Divorce attorney Jill Coil knows how to advise you during a divorce to help you achieve the best settlement and/or result possible; she is also a licensed private Guardian ad Litem. At CoilLaw we are ready and available to help you through your legal action. If you need legal advice concerning a Utah family law issue, call Jill Coil at CoilLaw LLC in Utah at (801) 939-6027 today.