The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in North Carolina Divorce Cases
It takes two people to make a marriage. Sometimes, though, it takes more than two for a divorce.
If you and your spouse have reached the point where your marriage is no longer viable, then clearly a divorce is necessary. Depending on how well you can still cooperate with each other, you each may end up hiring North Carolina divorce attorneys to represent your interests.
But what about your children, who are still minors? Who will speak for them?
As a parent, of course you say, “I do.” And the truth is that yes, for most routine matters you can guide decisions for your children just fine. But in a divorce, the other parent is equally able to say, “I speak for my child,” too. And that demonstrates the puzzle. For the brief period when a divorce lawsuit is underway, each of you is so focused on your own interests and concerns that neither of you can honestly guide your children’s lives. There is too much temptation to make the child a pawn in the little chess game you’re playing with your spouse.
It’s time for a guardian ad litem.
A guardian what?
The Latin phrase ad litem means “of, or for, a lawsuit.” A guardian ad litem is a person chosen to represent the interests of minor children in legal matters.
Right away, there’s a potential confusion to be avoided. In North Carolina, there is a state-run Guardian Ad Litem Program—but it has nothing to do with divorce. This state program arranges for adult volunteers to care for young children who have been removed from abusive homes. In general legal use, a guardian ad litem—notice, no capital letters—is usually a lawyer, specialized social worker, or other professional who will advise a court of the child’s best interests during a legal matter. We are using the phrase in that sense.
During your divorce proceedings, either spouse—or the judge—can decide that a guardian ad litem is needed. This is most often used under the following circumstances:
- When there is reason to suspect that domestic violence, child neglect, or child abuse has occurred in the household.
- When the parents are unable to agree on fundamental issues of child support and child custody.
- When the couple’s relationship (not just the marriage) has broken down completely, and the divorce action is hostile and vengeful.
What does a guardian ad litem do?
The guardian ad litem serves as your child’s independent representative. She is allowed to participate in those parts of the divorce proceedings that might affect your child’s interest, and she gets access to all information regarding the child.
Although the guardian ad litem in your case makes no independent decisions, she will conduct an investigation into your family situation. She may report formally to the judge or may even testify in court. Typically the court relies highly on the guardian’s report and any recommendations it contains. Any North Carolina divorce lawyer will advise you to do your best to maintain a cordial relationship with your child’s guardian ad litem.
At Speaks Law Firm, we thoroughly endorse the use of guardians when appropriate to protect a child’s interest. If you believe that your spouse may try to hurt you through your children during your divorce proceedings, it is vital that you have your Wilmington divorce attorney request that a guardian ad litem be appointed to keep your child’s future safe.
If you do not have legal representation for your divorce case, or if you have questions about the guardianship process, connect with our office at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233. We provide compassionate and considerate legal help for all our clients.