Guardian ad Litem in South Carolina Family Court

The Guardian ad Litem in South Carolina Family Court

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

In the Family Court of South Carolina, a Guardian ad Litem (often referred to simply as the “Guardian”) is someone appointed by a Judge to represent the interests of minor children in contested child custody and visitation cases.  The Guardian ad litem essentially functions as a lawyer for the child and advocates for his or her best interest.

What does a Guardian ad Litem do?

The responsibilities of Guardians are listed in S.C. Code Ann. §63-3-830, but their primary duty is to conduct an investigation and issue a report to the Court with their findings.   During a typical investigation, the Guardian will interview the parents and the children, conduct criminal background checks, review medical records, and request drug tests.   After the investigation is complete, a formal written report is distributed to the Court and to all parties involved.  In contested cases, the Court often relies heavily on this report to determine custody and visitation issues.

Who serves as Guardian ad Litem?

S.C. Code Ann. §63-3-820 defines the requirements to serve as a Guardian ad Litem.  Attorneys are essentially already qualified to serve as Guardians, but non-attorneys may also serve after successfully completing a training program and background clearances.

Who picks the Guardian ad Litem?

Often, the parties involved can select a Guardian ad Litem.  However, if the parties cannot agree on someone, the Judge will appoint a qualified person.

Is there a cost?

In South Carolina Department of Social Service (DSS) cases the Guardians are compensated by a state fund, so the parties do not pay out of pocket.  However, in private custody and visitation cases, the Guardian ad Litem’s fee is paid by the parties to the case.  The Guardian’s hourly rate and maximum fee amount are designated by the Court.

The ultimate significance of a Guardian ad Litem.

In my experience, I have found that the opinion of the Guardian is quite influential.  While their reports are supposed to be objective, they can offer an opinion should the Judge ask for it – and they often do.  A Judge may know very little about a case until it comes before him or her, so they rely heavily on the Guardian’s familiarly with the situation when making a determination.

If you have any questions about child custody, visitation, Guardian ad Litems or Family Law in general, we urge you to contact us.  In order to be flexible and convenient, we have open office hours, and easy appointment scheduling. Contact us today and schedule your confidential consultation.

Our law office serves people across the Upstate, South Carolina, including: Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson, Pickens, Laurens, and Oconee counties.