Often a court will want an objective person to be the “eyes and ears” of the court. The judge decides cases while sitting on the bench in the courtroom. A guardian ad litem, however, can go to someone’s home; go to a school; interview witnesses—and then report to the court and/or give the court a recommendation as to the competence or ability of a party to do what is reasonable.
Courts appoint guardians ad litem when a petition to appoint a guardian or conservator of an adult has been filed. Courts can also appoint a guardian ad litem when the court has to make a decision regarding a minor child. A guardian ad litem does not have to be an attorney but usually is an attorney. A guardian ad litem owes a duty to the court and not to any of the parties in a case. The guardian ad litem can be cross-examined and can participate in court hearings. More and more, courts are using guardians ad litem in child custody and divorce cases, especially where the parties have wildly different versions of the “facts” of the case.