Child Custody & Guardian Ad Litem for your Child

In child custody cases, as well as in child abuse and neglect cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child. This is in keeping with the much broader emphasis in North Carolina on doing what is determined to be best for the child. 

Family law and divorce attorneys here in the Piedmont Triad encounter guardians ad litem in child custody, child abuse, and child neglect cases. Specifically, a guardian ad litem is a fiduciary for your child appointed by the court generally in one of the following two instances:

1. If there is a Petition filed by the Department of Social Services related to your child, then the Court appoints at State expense a guardian ad litem to be the voice of your child. The guardian will meet with the child and report back to the court.

2. Sometimes in high conflict custody cases, the court, generally upon the motion of one of the parents, can appoint a guardian ad litem to be the voice of the child and report to the court on various issues related to the child. The order to appoint the guardian ad litem in this instance is very important and needs to clearly describe what the guardian should do. The guardian ad litem is generally paid for by one or both parents.

According to N.C.G.S. §7B-601, “the duties of the guardian ad litem program shall be to make an investigation to determine the facts, the needs of the juvenile, and the available resources within the family and community to meet those needs; to facilitate, when appropriate, the settlement of disputed issues; to offer evidence and examine witnesses at adjudication; to explore options with the court at the dispositional hearing; to conduct follow-up investigations to insure that the orders of the court are being properly executed; to report to the court when the needs of the juvenile are not being met; and to protect and promote the best interests of the juvenile until formally relieved of the responsibility by the court.”

The duties of the guardian ad litem, as described in the above statute, show the diverse range of issues that a guardian ad litem focuses on, all while keeping in mind what is best for the child. The input of a guardian ad litem in a child custody, child abuse, or child neglect case can be very helpful and useful for the court to take into consideration. This ensures that there is one specific person whose sole duty is to look after the best interests of the child. This can help to focus the case and make sure that any decisions that are made, are done so with the child in mind.

Child abuse cases, child neglect cases, and difficult custody cases are instances where an experienced family law attorney can help guide you through the process to ensure that the outcome is one that considers the impact on the child and is hopefully one in his or her best interests.