This Latin term translates as 'for the suit' and refers to the appointment by a court of a qualified person to represent someone before the court.
Ad Litem Details
In, for example, a court case over custody of a child, both adults may have different opinions about the child's future. In this case, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child in the court. The guardian ad litem is usually an attorney and is responsible for protecting the child's best interests. The guardian ad litem should have access to all relevant information.
The guardian ad litem differs from a child's permanent guardian in that she represents the child only for as long as the court case lasts. When the court reaches a decision, her role ends.
Child custody cases are, perhaps, the most common use of ad litem representation. However, a court may appoint someone to act ad litem in any situation when an interested party cannot represent itself. Ad litem representation may be employed in any situation in which an interested party does not fully grasp the complexities of the relevant laws and may not fully understand the ramifications of a decision it may make.
Real-World Example of Ad Litem
The large international law firm DLA Piper supplied lawyers to court-appointed guardians ad litem to represent the various parties involved in a trust. The trustees and beneficiaries wanted to set up a joint investment fund worth five to six hundred million dollars.
DLA Piper used its experience and expertise to advise all those directly involved in establishing the fund under the trust provisions. The trustees, and those working for them, had rights and obligations concerning the fund's operation. These had to be clearly explained and understood. DLA Piper oversaw the process as it moved through the courts and consulted financial professionals on the fund's operation.
The laws governing trusts can be exceedingly complex. Therefore, informed, professional assistance is often indispensable.
Guardian Ad Litem vs. Attorney Ad Litem
The two positions of guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem may appear to be similar but are, in fact, substantially different. An attorney ad litem acts as a legal advocate for the person he represents and acts as a third attorney in a case. A guardian ad litem acts as a 'friend' to the person he is representing. A guardian ad litem will make recommendations to a court based on his own experience and investigations into the particular circumstances surrounding the case at hand.
For example, in a custody case, the adults involved may differ in their school choice for the child, and both be acting in good faith.
The guardian ad litem will investigate the schools and conclude that school A is a better option than school B for the child she is representing. She will then make her recommendation to the court. An attorney ad litem is only interested in the legal aspect of the case; which school is the best for the child would not be relevant to her role. Therefore, in cases where a 'friend' is more important than purely legal representation, it is better to appoint a guardian ad litem.