Sometimes in family court proceedings it is necessary for a child to be represented by someone outside of their immediate family. The child may be represented by a lawyer, or the child’s interests may be protected by another volunteer. Known as a guardian ad litem, this person represents the child’s interests and makes decisions on behalf of the child in court proceedings. Guardians are typically appointed in custody and visitation cases, but they may be present in other family court cases as well. The guardian plays a role of an investigator and advocate for the child.
What are the qualifications for a guardian ad litem?
To be a guardian, an individual must meet a few qualifications set by South Carolina courts. An individual must be an adult who is capable of making impartial and independent decisions on the welfare of a child. Additionally, the individual must have not been convicted of any crimes listed by statute. South Carolina courts also require guardians to go through a training process that includes instructions in the court process, record keeping, cultural and social differences, services available for children and relevant laws concerning children.
While many guardians happen to be attorneys, a law license is not required to serve as a guardian at litem. As long as an individual meets the statutory guidelines for being a guardian, they may serve as one in South Carolina. Individuals servings as guardians who are not attorneys are held to the same standard of responsibility as those who are—so these individuals should take care with your training.
What are the responsibilities of a South Carolina guardian ad litem?
The guardian’s primary responsibility is ensuring that the best interests of the child remain protected. The guardian has a duty to investigate, and, if the child is an appropriate age, inform the child of their findings. While the guardian has a duty to advocate for the child, the guardian cannot make a final custody determination. This means that when it is time for the guardian to submit a report, they cannot argue for one parent over another as the preferred custodian. While a guardian cannot make an explicit recommendation, they can place things in their report that indicate which parent may be the better fit. For example, a guardian is allowed to indicate, if true, that one parent has a drinking or drug problem.
If a guardian follows generally accepted practices and completes their role with diligence and dedication, the court will often side with the guardian and give significant deference to their decision.
Do you need a guardian ad litem in your family court case?
At Surasky Law, we have experience working with guardians and helping to ensure that children’s best interests are protected. We can help a minor or another family member find a responsible and diligent guardian.
Contact us today for a free consultation.