A court appointed ad litem (often referred to as guardian ad litem in Raleigh) refers to a court-appointed advocate for children involved in court proceedings. These guardian ad litem volunteers represent the best interests of the child and will give the court the best recommendations for the child regarding custody disputes and child support based on prior communications with the child.
Appointment of an Ad Litem
Throughout North Carolina, more than 1,500 abused and neglected children go to court without an advocate. This means that there is no one to stand up for their rights and speak for their best interests. North Carolina initiated the guardian ad litem program in 1983, and completed the 1983 mandate to have a program in each judicial district in 1994.
Guardian ad litem programs rely heavily on volunteers, and 2010 saw the milestone of over 5,000 volunteers advocating for the interests of children throughout North Carolina.
Responsibilities & Duties of an Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem is a community volunteer who is appointed (along with an attorney) by a district judge to investigate into the best interests of abused and neglected children. Guardian ad litem volunteers must spend a lot of one-on-one time with the child in order to fully understand what is best for the child and take this information to advocate for the child. Their duties also include interviewing adults who the child has regular contact with, such as teachers and family members. A guardian ad litem must additionally get in contact with the attorney advocate in order to help develop a strategy that works for the child’s case.
Guardian ad litem advocates spend around 8 hours a month on each case, with cases typically taking around a year to resolve. While guardian ad litem volunteers have specific duties they must fulfill over the course of their case, there are several duties they must specifically not involve themselves in, such as acting as a mediator during a case or seeking to enforce a court order.
Benefits of Ad Litem
A guardian ad litem provides a voice to children who otherwise would not be able to speak for themselves during difficult court proceedings. Children often fall through the cracks in major urban centers, such as Raleigh, which can result in child placement with relatives who do not have the best interests of the child in mind. Abused and neglected children often feel as though the court system does not care about them and will be afraid to speak to an attorney or judge about their situation. A guardian ad litem spends months building up confidence with the child and interacting with the child through a variety of activities. Therefore, a guardian ad litem will know how to best approach a situation and will understand what needs to be done during court proceedings to best protect the child.
Overall, court appointed ad litem volunteers offer a unique perspective into family law cases. They are not lawyers and are often ordinary individuals in the community with average jobs who simply want to be a part of changing a child’s life for the better. A guardian ad litem has this ability to stand up for a child who other people will overlook.
About the Author:
Andrew Miller is a passionate member of the End Ecocide movement, an avid legal blogger and Environmental Law Student. He has worked in marketing for over a decade and finds his passion in bringing concepts to life. As a Socialpreneur, he is an agent for positive social change through both his writing on Legalnews.tv and through his business endeavors.