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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.

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Robert Reid McInvale
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Robert Reid McInvale is an experienced family law attorney with a comprehensive practice in Houston. He provides dedicated and strong advocacy for his clients, helping them with all the issues surrounding their divorce, separation, child custody, and other marriage and family matters. Attorney McInvale—Reid to clients and friends—seemed destined for a law career. Born while his father was attending Emory University Law School, Reid grew up in Manchester, GA. His father was the city attorney for many years, as well as head of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is in the family blood to become lawyers and help people get justice. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall is part of the McInvale family tree.

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