What Is a Guardian ad Litem? - Definition, Qualifications & Responsibilities

Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

In this lesson, you will learn what constitutes a guardian ad litem. You will initially review the definition, then examine the qualifications and responsibilities of a guardian ad litem.


Unfortunately, there are situations where children don't get their basic needs met. In addition, there are cases where adult individuals are incapacitated, or unable to take care of their everyday needs. In these instances, a guardian ad litem may be needed in legal proceedings related to these individuals.

A guardian ad litem is an individual that is appointed by the court to represent the best interest of a child when there is a divorce or other parental issue at stake. The guardian ad litem's job is to take a close look at what is going on with the child generally and in the home. After this, the guardian ad litem will advise the court, usually in a report, about such issues as where the child should reside, which parent should have custody, and if applicable, what type of custody arrangement should be created. Other common issues include adoption and child support. A guardian ad litem can also be appointed by the court to represent a disabled or an incompetent individual of any age and perform similar functions. Hence, the guardian will determine the best interests of these individuals.


A guardian ad litem typically goes through a training program. After completing the program, there is usually a test. If one passes the test, one will receive formal guardian ad litem certification. Moreover, licensed attorneys who are not related to the child or individual in the matter are able to serve as a guardian ad litem. Ultimately, every state has different rules that govern what qualifications one must have to be eligible to serve as a guardian ad litem.

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