A guardian ad litem is an attorney who advocates to the court on behalf of a child when their interests diverge from their parents. This type of attorney is generally trained in child advocacy.
Whereas a custody evaluator is a neutral party, a guardian ad litem’s job is to do what is in the best interest of the child based on their individual needs. The needs of the child are not necessarily what he or she says, but reflect their short and long term interests.
As part of this process, a guardian ad litem interacts with the child, and also communicates with other parties such as parents, therapists and custody evaluators and helps the entire group liaise when necessary.
A Guardian ad litem submits a written report to the court with their recommendations, which may help a judge decide matters such as allocation of parenting time and responsibilities, financial support, or even relocation. Either parent or the court can request a guardian ad litem.
A guardian ad litem might advocate for a child who is reunifying with a parent, perhaps by engaging a monitor, such as a social worker, to be present at visits.
Another instance might be in the case of a special needs child, in which the guardian ad litem would communicate with therapists or teachers to identify a specific curriculum or activities that are most beneficial to the child, and request that these be considered in any custody-related orders.
Seth Harris, senior associate with PMK’s family law division, is available to be a compassionate, thoughtful representative as a guardian ad litem, or for any other family law needs. For more information, go to https://www.hawaiilegal.com/practice-areas/family-law-2/.