What Is the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in a Custody Case?
Sometimes in contested custody cases, the court appoints a guardian ad litem to help resolve the case. People may confuse an attorney ad litem with a guardian ad litem because of the name similarity, but their roles and qualifications are different. An attorney ad litem must be a lawyer, and the lawyer’s role is to provide legal services to the child, which according to Texas statutes includes undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation. Some courts refer to an attorney ad litem as an Amicus, or friend of the court. In contrast, a guardian ad litem does not have to be an attorney, but is a person the court appoints to represent the best interests of the child.
Texas definition of a guardian ad litem
The Texas Family Code Chapter 107 defines the guardian ad litem as:
- A volunteer advocate
- 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 a dual role that includes guardian ad litem
What a guardian ad litem does
Duties that a guardian ad litem performs may include:
- Investigating to determine the child's best interests
- Reviewing the child's relevant medical, psychological, and school records
- Interviewing the child and other parties in the lawsuit
- Considering the child's expressed wishes
- Testifying at a trial or hearing if necessary
- Evaluating what is in the child's best interests
- Making custody recommendations
While courts are not obligated to follow their recommendations, most judges incorporate them into final rulings. Even so, spouses’ Texas custody lawyers may argue on their behalves against recommendations not in their favor.