During the course of separation or divorce, it can be easy for parents to get caught up in the intense emotions of the situation and focus more on themselves than on the needs of their children. In these high-stress scenarios, a parent may neglect a child or even behave in an abusive manner. Whose responsibility is it to look out for the best interests of the child or children involved when this happens?

In some cases, in which child custody or visitation is contested, a guardian ad litem may be appointed to represent the best interests of a child. What is a guardian ad litem? Why is this role so important? What can your family law attorney in Charleston do to help you when a guardian ad litem is appointed? Here is what you need to know!

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Because of the word “guardian” in the title, many people mistakenly believe that this person takes physical guardianship of a child, but this is not the case. Ad litem is a Latin term meaning “to suit,” so in essence, the guardian ad litem is tasked with acting in the best interests of a child for the duration of the lawsuit in question (i.e., a divorce or child custody case).

The guardian investigates and reports to the family court, and advocates for the best interests of the child. The guardian ad litem is typically appointed by the court automatically in a contested custody or visitation case; however, a parent can also request that the court appoint a guardian ad litem.

Why is a Guardian Ad Litem Appointed?

There are many reasons why the court may choose to appoint a guardian ad litem.  It is not unusual for a guardian ad litem to be appointed during contested custody and visitation cases, as this person will investigate the facts of the case and offer the court suggestions about what may be in the best interest of a child.

A guardian ad litem may also be appointed in cases involving:

  • Allegations of child abuse or neglect
  • Adoption
  • Legal name changes for minors
  • Paternity actions
  • A termination of parental rights

In DSS defense cases, the guardian ad litem may be a trained volunteer. In other cases, such as those involving a complicated custody battle, it is more likely that the guardian ad litem will be a paid professional (often an attorney).

A guardian ad litem is important because children are not represented in divorce and custody proceedings between parents, and there are cases in which a qualified adult should represent their best interests.

The Importance of a Family Law Attorney 

Complex family issues can be exacerbated by a contentious divorce, child custody, or child support case, and the best interests of children can slip through the cracks. Whether a court appoints a guardian ad litem to represent children in a custody battle or you request one, it is a good idea to consult with a qualified family law attorney to ensure the best possible outcome for your child or children.

Contact the experienced and compassionate professionals at Bleecker Family Law today at 843-571-2725 or schedule a consultation and learn how we can help in all aspects of family law.