A guardian ad litem is appointed as a representative for children when their parents are engaged in a custody or visitation dispute in the family court. The family court will order that a guardian ad litem serve to represent the children on the judge’s own authority or by the consent of the parties.

It is understandable why this is done. South Carolina law says that the best interests of the child is one of the most important considerations in family court. Your lawyer is representing your best interest. There is a lawyer representing the other parent’s best interest. But at the end of the day, the child’s best interest is of more concern to the court than the interest of either one of the parents in a custody case. The child therefore needs a spokesperson to represent his or her interests in court.

The “ad litem” part of the guardian’s title is a Latin phrase that means “for the purpose of a legal dispute.” A guardian ad litem doesn’t take full guardianship control over your child’s life. You do not lose your rights as a parent merely because a guardian ad litem has been appointed.

What does a guardian ad litem do, and how does she represent the best interest of the child?

She is there to conduct an independent, balanced, and impartial investigation as to the situation of the child or children and the family.

  • She will meet with the child, along with any other children in the family.
  • If necessary, she will visit the home of the parties. Often, this isn’t needed, as long as neither parent is claiming something wrong with the home of the other.
  • She may meet with those who are relevant to the case, such as parents, caregivers, school officials, and religion instructors.
  • If it is deemed appropriate, she may obtain a criminal history of each parent or of other people in the households.
  • She will have access to the child’s school records and medical records and other relevant documents.

The guardian ad litem is required to maintain a complete file on any factors that may affect the child’s wellbeing. To accomplish this, she will have the right (and may be required) to do all of the above actions, and often much more.

Does the guardian ad litem come to court?

Yes. In fact, she is required to come to court on child-related matters, unless the court excuses her or the parties agree for her not to appear. She will deliver to the judge written reports concerning the child’s best interest. She has the right to cross-examine witnesses. She does all of this to advocate for the child and the child’s best interest.

While the guardian can’t make recommendations as to the ultimate issue of custody to the court (except under certain circumstances), her final written report may contain recommendations based on facts uncovered during her investigation. Her investigation and the recommendations she makes help the court make decisions about custody, visitation, and potentially other issues.

Custody and visitation cases are challenging, and if you are faced with one, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers of Holland & Usry, P.A toll-free at 888-230-1841.


John Holland
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John Holland is a Spartanburg Family law attorney, practicing since 2012.
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