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Bay Area Family Attorneys > Blog > Divorce > The Role of a Guardian ad Litem in California Divorce and Custody Cases

The Role of a Guardian ad Litem in California Divorce and Custody Cases


When a Guardian ad Litem is appointed in a California child custody matter, some roles and powers may shift. This is because the presumption of the court is to assume that a minor child’s parents will pursue the child’s best interests. When a Guardian ad Litem becomes involved, however, it is now  that person’s sole purpose to represent and serve the child’s best interests.

But what is a Guardian ad Litem, precisely? Guardian ad Litems are involved in many divorce and custody matters. However, Guardian ad Litems and their part in a divorce or custody case are not as well-known as other, more common aspects of divorce and custody (such as alimony or child support). That is because Guardian ad Litems do not become involved in every divorce or custody case. However, when theyDO become involved it is important to understand their role. This article is designed to answer some basic questions of who Guardian ad Litems are and when a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed.

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem is an individual, often an attorney, who has been appointed by the court to serve in a Guardian ad Litem capacity. A Guardian ad Litem will represent the best interests of a minor or incapacitated person who lacks the ability to represent themselves. Guardian ad Litems are often involved in cases of child custody, child abuse, or in cases of diminished capacity to represent themselves.

Typical tasks of a Guardian ad Litem include

  • Interviewing children to better assess and recommend what is in that child’s best interest
  • Advocate in the course of proceedings for the best interest of the child
  • Appearing in court to present recommendations based off their findings

When will a Guardian ad Litem be Appointed in California?

As touched on above, a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed when a party to some legal case is found to be lacking the capacity to act in their own interest. Very often they will be involved in cases involving children. This is particularly true in heated divorce or custody cases where the court finds that the child’s best interests are not being appropriately served or represented without a Guardian ad Litem. Some examples of when a California court might appoint a Guardian ad Litem include:

  • Termination of parental rights cases
  • Adoption, to include step-parent or foster parent adoption
  • Child custody cases
  • Cases involving allegations of child abuse
  • Cases involving allegations of neglect
  • Cases involving allegations of abandonment
  • Cases where a minor has applied for a domestic violence restraining order
  • Disputes over a disabled adult

Appointments of a Guardian ad Litem will vary from district to district. An experienced family law attorney in your area can be relied upon to help you fully navigate any questions you might have.

Contact Cardwell, Steigerwald Young

The experienced San Francisco family lawyers at Cardwell, Steigerwald Young understand how difficult it is to go through impactful court proceedings under the best of circumstances. Finding out that a Guardian ad Litem – a new player on the board – is being introduced into your case can be disorienting and even concerning to parents who do not fully understand this party’s role or how it might impact their case, their family, and their child. Our legal team has helped guide countless clients through these concerns. Contact our office today to begin discussing your own case with our team.




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