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Guardian ad Litem: An advocate for children in court

Posted: Friday, May 22, 2009

Recent high profile court cases involving child welfare have some asking, "What is a Guardian ad Litem?"

A Guardian ad Litem is an advocate for a child whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court. In legal terms, it means “guardian for the lawsuit.” When the court is making decisions that will affect a child's future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson -- an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, the Guardian ad Litem is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interests of the child, and he or she is assigned as an advocate for the child for the duration of the court process.

Different from a legal guardian, the Guardian ad Litem has no control over the person or property of the child and does not provide a home for the child. The Guardian ad Litem does not function as the child's attorney and does not provide direct services to the child.

Guardians ad Litem in Minnesota include volunteers, independent contractors and state employees.

What does a Guardian ad Litem do? There are three primary functions:

1. Information-gathering for the court 

  • What has happened to the child
  • Current circumstances and needs of the child    

2. Making recommendations to the court

  • What the child needs to be safe
  • What services and treatment plans should be ordered for the child and family
  • What permanent resolution is in the best interests of the child

3. Advocating for speedy decisions that consider the impact of delays on the child's welfare

More information about the MN Judicial Branch Guardian ad Litem Program