The Guardian Ad Litem has the specific role of protecting a child’s best interest. In family court cases involving custody, visitation rights or abuse it is common that a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed to make sure the child is protected and the child’s best interest is pursued.
A Guardian Ad Litem is not the child’s lawyer. A lawyer would represent the desires of the child. Instead a Guardian Ad Litem presents a report to the judge that indicates the child’s best interest. While it is not their role to present the child’s desires, they can ensure that the child is heard in court.
Most commonly a Guardian Ad Litem is a lawyer who has met specific educational requirements. According to Rhode Island Family Court Administrative Order 2006-2, these educational requirements include eight hours of specific training, as well as continuing education. However, a Guardian Ad Litem doesn’t have to be a lawyer, instead, certified social workers and psychologists who meet the requirements can function in this role.
A Guardian Ad Litem will conduct research, perform home visits, interview friends, family and teachers, interview the child and ultimately create a report to submit to the judge. The judge is very likely to adhere the recommendations of a Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem will also protect the child in their involvement with the court proceedings. Family court cases have the potential to be traumatic and a Guardian Ad Litem can protect a child from the challenges of being involved in a court case.
Payment of a Guardian Ad Litem is overseen by the court. The Guardian Ad Litem must present the fees for their services and the court will approve the amount to be paid and which party is responsible for what portion of the fees. An article, Rhode Island Child Custody Law - Guardian Ad Litem For the Minor Child in Family Court points out that typically this fee is split evenly between the two parties, however a court may find reason to require one party to pay up to 100% of the fee.
While family court cases are stressful for every one, a Guardian Ad Litem can ensure that a child’s best interests are being taken care of. Consider requesting a Guardian Ad Litem to make sure that the needs of your child are being carefully and unbiasedly presented to the court.
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