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How to Become a Guardian Ad Litem

published June 15, 2009

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( 2070 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
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Sometimes getting an attorney is not the only answer to helping a child who might be caught up in their parents divorce or separation. A lawyer cannot do everything, since he has a lot of responsibility for the things that he is hired to do. This goes not just for children, but for anyone who is dependent upon the protection or care of another, such as a senior citizen who is being taken care of by their own children. A system of caring for those who are dependent necessarily has many cracks and fissures in it, since there is too much bureaucracy involved in it. So, if dependents in need can't always rely on an attorney for everything in troubled times, who can they turn to? They can look to a guardian ad litem.
How To Become A Guardian Ad Litem

A guardian ad litem is a great and noble profession for someone who thinks that maybe he wants to be a lawyer but is not sure. A guardian ad litem is someone appointed to be a "guardian at law." The court assigns such a person to look out for the interests of a dependent during legal proceedings that could affect the dependent's life; this especially, but not always, concerns divorce cases involving minor children. As a guardian ad litem, you would be working with a lawyer, not as an assistant to him but as another professional in the mix.

Besides divorce cases, a guardian ad litem is very important to children who are in foster care. When someone is trying to adopt a child from an adoption agency, the agency, the prospective parents, and the living biological parents each must have an attorney. In the case of the adoption of an older child, a guardian ad litem will act as that child's attorney, making sure that conflicts of interest get resolved in such a way that the child doesn't get harmed.

To be a guardian ad litem, you'll need to be someone with a lot of compassion for those who are or may be victims of abuse or neglect. You will also have to have plenty of personal time that you can give. Finally, you'll need to be someone with keen eyes and ears for details. You have to observe everything about a dependent’s living circumstances to determine what, if anything, they need. If it's a contested divorce case, for instance, one party may be trying to say that the other doesn’t deserve the children due to being an "unfit parent." That party’s attorney will get the court to demand a guardian ad litem visitation to the alleged unfit parent's house to see how the children live and hear what they think of their parent. The other lawyer would want you to give evidence that her client is not unfit in the least as a parent. You would have to be totally objective in your evaluation of what you see and are told.

Again, being involved with a different attorney in different court matters can get you some important legal experience if you are possibly interested in being a lawyer yourself, as well as help you decide if a career in law is right for you. Otherwise, you can just know that you are doing something noble and helpful to society.

If you think you have what it takes to be a guardian ad litem, begin by the local county court house to inquire about the local volunteer advocacy program. Have all of the needed paperwork mailed to you, or receive instructions about how to fill it out on the Internet. You should be prepared to commit a minimum of one year to this program, as cases of contested divorce, custody battles, or possible neglect and abuse can drag on and on and on and continuity is very important in such cases. You should also go to the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) website to see all that being a guardian ad litem entails.

You will need to provide some personal information to become enrolled in the program. Valid driver's license information, social security number, and a copy of your birth certificate will be needed. There will also be a background check run on you and you'll be fingerprinted if you don’t already have fingerprints on police file. If you're approved, you will complete the training program for your area. The national average is 30 hours of training.

Remember, you'll need to be available during the week to attend all court hearings. A lot of your other work can be done on the weekend or later at night, but if court is held during the day during the week you will have to be able to attend. As a guardian ad litem, think of yourself as a very special kind of attorney.

published June 15, 2009

( 2070 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.