A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney. They are not social workers or psychiatrists (although sometimes in a case these professionals may also be necessary). A Guardian Ad Litem, or G.A.L. as they are commonly referred to in legal jargon, must be trained to practice law because the G.A.L. makes legal recommendations to the judge. These legal recommendations are based upon interviews with the parties to a suit, as well as interviews with the children involved, records and document reviews, and other information as the G.A.L. sees necessary. Many times a G.A.L. will make a home visit. Sometimes these are planned and other times they are surprise visits. The Guardian ad Litem’s job is to represent “the best interests of the child”.
The Guardian ad Litem, technically speaking, is not the attorney for the children because she does not represent in the pure sense their interests. An oft repeated example is a child who wants to only eat Ice Cream and nothing else. This is probably not in the best interests of the child. The G.A.L. is called to make a recommendation that the child not, therefore, eat only Ice Cream, but, if this were important to the child, would make the child’s wishes known. A normal client would have more control over their attorney. Attorneys who represent the parties do not make best interests recommendations for their adult clients, but rather advocate for what the client asks.
One last thing to keep in mind is that in a divorce case, Guardian ad Litems are not always appointed. Guardian Ad Litems are only appointed when there is some complicating factor that worries the court about the child’s welfare.