Where there are custody, parenting time, or other related concerns, involvement of an experienced attorney serving as court-appointed guardian ad litem may be an option.
A guardian ad litem serves through a local county program or may be individually selected by attorneys or a court for appointment as an advocate for a child or alleged incapacitated adult. The term guardian ad litem has varying meanings in different jurisdictions and settings. A guardian ad litem may be a lay person or an attorney. In Indiana, an attorney trained and serving as guardian ad litem represents the best interests of the person to whom they are assigned in a variety of legal matters, including divorce, paternity, adoptions, and guardianships.
A guardian ad litem gathers information and investigates family dynamics, including interviews of the parties and the child or alleged incapacitated adult. The Guardian Ad Litem may visit homes to observe, conduct interviews of collateral contacts, and review records. These gathered interviews and information do not fall under attorney-client confidentiality, given that the nature of the appointment is not to serve as an attorney, but instead to relay the facts to the court and represent the best interests.
The guardian ad litem prepares and files reports and testifies as necessary at hearings. In some cases, recommendations addressing custody, parenting time, and relocations may be made as in the best interest of the child. A guardian ad litem in a guardianship matter may proceed per the order from the court in making recommendations, including: determining the wishes of the child or alleged incapacitated adult, who should serve as guardian, and any limitations the court may consider.
The Guardian Ad Litem also works with other attorneys and mediators in the case, offering perspectives in settling issues such as custody, parenting time, relocation, and other issues such as extracurricular activities. Monitoring the progress of a family and reporting on compliance and updates can be another aspect of the role. Limited appointments may be made to gather and report on a specific task or issue.
Having an experienced guardian ad litem attorney advocate assigned helps to resolve many types of outstanding issues in adoption, divorce, paternity, and guardianship matters. A guardian ad litem can identify resources and services for the child or alleged incapacitated adult, as well as for the family, to facilitate a collaborative relationship between all the parties.