Legal matters involving children can be complicated, especially when the people involved struggle to come to mutual agreements. Because of this, sometimes outside help is brought in to assist the progress of the situation. This outside help is often a family member, close friend, or even an attorney, who are referred to as the guardian ad litem. Guardian ad litems play a temporary role in legal cases involving children by ensuring that the child’s needs stay at the forefront of the decisions being made.
How Does California Law Define a Guardian Ad Litem?
California state law defines guardian ad litem as a court-appointed representative of a child’s best interests. Guardian ad litems are appointed to minors and those who are unable to advocate for themselves in court. They are a neutral entity such as an attorney or social worker and can be nominated to represent the child in question if they are over the age of 18. California law states that a guardian ad litem can be appointed in any case in which the court deems that a minor lacks the capacity to represent their best interests and needs.
What Does A Guardian Ad Litem Do?
Guardian ad litems are appointed to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, meaning that they have the job of representing minors or those who lack the capacity to represent themselves in court. They must put into the work to understand the child’s life, what their needs are, and how they can best be filled. What a guardian ad litem does varies slightly depending on the area of law that the case is in:
- Family Law: Guardian ad litems are frequently appointed seen in family law matters, such as child custody and child abuse cases. In family law, guardian ad litems interview the children involved and gather the information needed to help determine what their best interests are. From there, they go on to represent those needs how they see fit. For example, if a guardian ad litem knows that a child is better off with one parent, but the other is winning a custody battle, the guardian ad litem can emphasize the needs of the child being with the other parent. In child abuse cases, similar proceedings may take place.
- Trust and Estate Matters: Guardian ad litems are often assigned to legal trust and estate matters when children, elderly, or incapacitated people are involved to ensure they are not taken advantage of. For example, if a child inherits a great deal of money due to the passing of their parents, a guardian ad litem will help to protect that money and ensure it’s used for the proper purposes. Guardian ad litems can also assist in cases where a parent may be incapacitated, such as having severe Dementia, where they need assistance in filing estate matters properly.
When Is A Guardian Ad Litem Needed?
There are a variety of situations in which a guardian ad litem might be needed to represent someone in court, including:
- Suspected Child Abuse: While every case is different, having a neutral party like a guardian ad litem can help to protect children that may be at risk at home. Child abuse cases can be complicated, especially when children might not know what’s best for them in the first place. Often, children may say that they want to stay with their abusers because they don’t know anything other than that. Having a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s needs in court is crucial to ensure their safety.
- Estate and Trust Matters: When dealing with inheritance, estate, or trust matters with minors, having a guardian ad litem is important to protect their assets. As children do not have the capabilities of handling entire estates, guardian ad litems can assist with all the legal aspects. Guardian ad litems can also help in the cases of people that are handling their own estates but may not have the brain capacity to do it by themselves.
- The Child Has Clear Preferences That Should Be Heard: In many child-custody cases, a guardian ad litem can be a neutral entity to help emphasize the child’s preferences to the court. Many children, especially at certain developmental stages, require parents they are comfortable around that fit their specific needs. If the child indicates a clear preference for a parent that takes care of them properly, and the guardian ad litem can confirm it, then they will help to represent that child’s preference in court.
- The Child Demonstrates At-Risk Behavior: When a child demonstrates at-risk or delinquent behavior in a family law case, guardian ad litems can be assigned to ensure that the child is protected and helped at the same time. The guardian ad litem will investigate the circumstances of the child’s life along with their actions to help find a solution that will help them in the best way possible.
Q: How does guardian ad litem work in California?
A: If the child or person in question meets the proper criteria, a guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent their best interest through legal proceedings.
Q: Who can be appointed guardian ad litem in California?
A: In California, a guardian ad litem must be a neutral entity. To apply to be a guardian ad litem, you must be over the age of 18 and fill out an application that will be reviewed by the court. If the child does not have any specific family member or person applying, an attorney or social worker may be assigned as their guardian ad litem instead.
Q: When is guardian ad litem implemented in California?
A: Guardian ad litem is implemented when a child or person that is incapable of expressing their best interest is involved in legal proceedings.
Q: What should you not say to a guardian ad litem?
A: It’s important to be honest with any guardian ad litem representing your child or someone close to you. What you don’t need to do is mention every issue that may arise between you and your partner or what can’t be agreed on in proceedings.
Guardian Ad Litem in California
Whether you’re looking to apply to be someone’s guardian ad litem in an upcoming trial or need an attorney you can trust to do the job, our team here at the Law Offices of Dorie Rodgers can help. Make sure the best interests of those who can’t represent themselves are a priority. For legal assistance pertaining to guardian ad litems, contact our team here.