Law Offices of Cheney and Davis, P.C.
130 South Main Street, Reidsville, GA 30453
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
by DuAnn Cowart Davis
There are few legal cases more heart wrenching than those involving disputed custody of minor children. These cases are so emotional that the parties often cannot see the situation from the perspective of the child or children. In such cases, the court often appoints a trained professional called a “Guardian Ad Litem” to represent the best interests of the minor child or children.
The Guardian should be both an advocate for the child and an investigator for the court. The Guardian does not owe any allegiance to any party other than the child. He or she can be objective in the investigation and recommendation as to what disposition would be in the best interests of the child or children, i.e., who should have primary custody and to what extent visitation should be granted.
The services of a Guardian Ad Litem are not limited to custody disputes. Guardians are appointed in a wide variety of legal actions, including probate matters, actions brought by the Department of Family and Children Services, and any litigation where a child has no parent or guardian or his interest may be adverse to that of his parent or guardian. A Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed at any stage of the proceedings, upon any party’s application or upon the court’s own motion.
In general, the Guardian should do the following:
Act as an independent fact finder to review all relevant records and interview the child, parents, social workers, teachers and other persons to ascertain the facts and circumstances of each child’s situation.
Determine the interests of the child, taking into consideration his age, maturity, culture and ethnicity, and explain the court proceedings to the child, when appropriate, in language and terms that the child can understand.
Provide reports regarding his or her recommendations and should appear at all hearings to represent the child’s interests, providing testimony when required.
Courts are not bound by the Guardian’s recommendation, but generally give these recommendations substantial weight.
DuAnn Cowart Davis is a partner with the law firm of Cheney & Davis, P.C., which specializes in Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation and Social Security.
If you have any legal questions of a general nature, please submit them to: Legal Forum, Post Office Box 1082, Reidsville, Georgia 30453.