A guardian ad litem provides information and assistance to courts in disputes relating to family or probate matters. Three main categories of guardian ad litem exist in Massachusetts: an investigator, an evaluator and a “next friend.” The court appoints an investigator to look into facts relating to a family or probate dispute. A guardian ad litem-evaluator often carries out psychological testing or clinical assessment. If a guardian ad litem acts as a “next friend,” he typically represents the interests of a minor child or incapacitated person.
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A guardian ad litem is typically an attorney, medical professional or social worker with experience in the subject matter of the dispute. He must be independent of all parties to the dispute and play no other role in the court action. The term “ad litem” literally means for the purposes of the proceeding and, therefore, the guardian ad litem ceases any involvement with the parties to the dispute once the case is closed.
Guardian Ad Litem -- Investigator
In family disputes, the court appoints a guardian ad litem-investigator to scrutinize the relevant factors in a child’s life and report on factual matters. The investigator usually visits the family home and the child’s school where he talks to the child’s teachers and other involved adults. He then files a report with the court and may make recommendations regarding issues such as custody or visitation, but the final decision remains with the court.
Guardian Ad Litem -- Evaluator
A guardian ad litem-evaulator gathers factual information and uses his clinical knowledge to interpret that information in a family dispute. The guardian should be independent from either party in the case and should not provide legal advice. Once he has evaluated the information, the guardian ad litem files his report with the court.
Guardian Ad Litem -- Next Friend
A court may appoint a guardian ad litem to act on behalf of a person who is a minor, mentally incapacitated or disabled in any court action involving trusts or estates. The guardian ad litem acts in the interests of the minor, mentally incapacitated or disabled person in all matters relating to the court action. The court supplies the guardian ad litem with all notices of the proceedings and pays all reasonable expenses of the guardian ad litem.
References & Resources
- MALegislature: General Laws
- Maccauslandlaw.com: Court Investigators and Guardians ad Litem
- Mass Legal Services.org: Family Law Advocacy for Low and Moderate Income Litigants – Chapter 10 Guardian Ad Litem
- Massachusetts Court System: Application to the Probate and Family Court Department for Appointment as Guardian ad Litem
- Massachusetts Court System: Application to the Probate and Family Court Department for Appointment as Guardian ad Litem/Next Friend
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