In Latin, “ad litem” means “to court”. In a contemporary context, it means “for a specific action”. Therefore, a guardian ad litem is a representative the court appoints to represent someone during a specific case.

This function is similar to other types of attorneys. The role demands that the lawyer fight for the best interests of the ward, just as a lawyer you hire in a traditional attorney-client relationship would fight for your rights and interests.

However, there is an important difference. The person the guardian ad litem represents is, by definition, not able to make informed decisions. In a case involving child custody, that person would probably be your child.

Guardian ad litem in the law

California Code of Civil Procedure outlines a relatively broad set of requirements for appointing guardians ad litem. In the case of divorce, only one criterion typically applies: that the ward is a minor.

In fact, divorces are one of the most common types of cases that require these types of guardians. Many minor children do not have the ability to understand court proceedings. However, custody agreements depend heavily on the best interest of the child.

A guardian’s role in divorce

The court needs to understand your children’s best interests. The guardian ad litem facilitates this process. Your child’s representative would have several important functions, such as:

  • Focusing on the long-term best interest of your children
  • Discovering your child’s wishes, if they are applicable to your case
  • Communicating important information to your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer
  • Representing your child in discussions and formal procedures

Guardians may seem like an extra complication in a divorce, but they almost always make things much more efficient. In fact, California law specifically prohibits their appointment if it would delay the final order that resolves your case.