In some cases, the services of a Guardian ad Litem play a key component.
Imagine the following scenario: a doctor diagnoses a ten-year old child named Jacob with a “curable” form of cancer. If Jacob is brought to a hospital for regular chemotherapy treatments, then Jacob has a chance to beat the disease; he can live a healthy and stable life. Jacob’s parents, however, are devoutly religious people; they have the deeply held belief that God and prayer are the only acceptable ways to cure Jacob of cancer. The parents believe that if Jacob is meant to be cured, then God will provide for the cure. As such, Jacob’s parents are refusing any medical treatment for Jacob.
This scenario might trigger a court case, in which the state of Massachusetts has a special interest in advocating on behalf of Jacob to ensure that he has a chance to beat his disease, even against the wishes of his religious parents.
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
If a Justice of the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court appoints a Guardian ad Litem to the case involving Jacob, the Guardian must be impartial. He or she investigates or evaluates the family and has a duty to investigate the family’s situation. This investigation may include interviews with Jacob and his parents and home visits. After reviewing the family circumstances, the Guardian ad Litem creates a detailed report to file with the court. The person does not take sides and is supposed to be an impartial third party.
NOT your attorney:
When working with a Guardian ad Litem, it is important to remember certain best practices. First, it is necessary to know that he or she is not your attorney. Anything that you share he or she may report to the Justice in your case. The person does not need to keep any confidential information that you may believe you are sharing in confidence.
You must share accurate information:
Second, it is also important to remember that you must provide the Guardian ad Litem with accurate information. You must also share with that person any information about other people who may have information in support of your case.
The investigation will take time:
Third, it is important to remember that depending on the circumstances of your case, the investigation or evaluation process with a Guardian ad Litem may take several months. Because the process may be long, it is wise to keep written documentation about what you want to share with the person; what you have shared with the person; when and for how long you spoke with the Guardian ad Litem; and any other information that you think would benefit your case. When you speak with him or her, you should create a summary or bulleted list of important points that you wish to share. That way, you can stay focused with your thoughts.
There may be a cost:
Another item to consider is that there may be a cost associated with the Guardian ad Litem process, which you may be required to pay. Also remember: because the Guardian is an impartial person, he or she may seem distant or highly questioning of you. This does not mean that he or she does not believe you or what you’re saying. Rather, it means that he or she is performing his or her due diligence in remaining impartial for the report to be given to the Family Court Justice.
Encourage those whom you know the Guardian ad Litem will be speaking with to remain truthful. Provide factual information requested by the Guardian ad Litem, but be sure to speak with your attorney and not the Guardian about facts that may or may not hurt your case. If the Guardian ad Litem requests that you sign consent forms to obtain confidential information from professionals, be sure to speak with your attorney before you sign any documentation. After the report is created, you have a right to read the final report. You may not copy the report without permission from the Massachusetts Family Court Judge.
In the above case with Jacob, the Guardian ad Litem will present the facts of the family situation; the Guardian is not a legal advocate of Jacob. Massachusetts values religious freedom; however, this freedom is not limitless when the care of a child with a curable form of cancer is concerned. There are other circumstances when a Guardian ad Litem may be involved such as a divorce, separation, or other matters that affect children or the family unit.
Are you looking for an experienced Newburyport or Andover divorce lawyer or family law attorney? If you are seeking a competent family law or child law lawyer or domestic relations attorney, please contact our offices by phone at 978-225-9030 during business hours or complete a contact form on our website. We will respond to your phone call or submission promptly, and you may schedule a free consultation with us.