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The judge just appointed a guardian ad litem. What is that and why?

In cases involving time sharing (visitation/custody) the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem, by the judge’s own motion or on request of either parent. The guardian ad litem represents the best interests of the children. They are usually family law lawyers and can be appointed for a fee, sometimes on a sliding scale or pro bono (for free) depending on the financial circumstances of the parties. Often, I am called in a panic, because my client’s ex asked for a guardian to be appointed, and the judge appointed one. It does not mean that the judge believes the allegations of your ex, it is often quite the opposite. The guardian ad litem’s job is to investigate and pursue information that the judge cannot step off the bench to do him or herself. The guardian ad litem will meet with the children, their teachers, doctors, babysitters, clergy, and ascertain the information that the judge is seeking. While it may seem burdensome, it actually makes a case go more quickly to have a guardian ad litem perform this function rather than having all those in the child’s life come to court as witnesses.