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A guardian ad litem is a court-appointed guardian who supports the rights of a child in legal proceedings, but will not likely be a person with whom the child lives or even knows personally, other than through the court system. The position is usually created by the court system in cases where children are abused or neglected. In some cases, the position can be particularly contentious, especially in cases where parents are divorcing. In other cases, the guardian is simply a reassuring voice for the child.
The main requirement to being a guardian ad litem is to have a love for children and want what is best for them. The position is not an easy one and takes a time commitment. That time commitment may be very sporadic but, during some weeks, could be very significant. In addition to advocating in court, the guardian will be expected to research the situation and perhaps make recommendations.
While there is no special educational path required to become a guardian ad litem, there are career choices that work really well for the position. Those who know family law, such as attorneys and court personnel, may make good choices. Also, those who are in the social services field would likely do well in these positions, as they are already likely strong advocates for children and have their best interests at heart.
The first step in becoming a guardian ad litem is to begin the application process. The local clerk of court's office should be able to direct those interested in this position, or will have the applications on hand. Once that is completed, there will also be a background check and likely an interview process. Those who have significant criminal histories or incidents of child abuse or neglect will likely be eliminated from consideration at this point for obvious reasons.
After this initial application process, each jurisdiction may be somewhat different in what is required. However, some sort of training period will be mandatory. The nature and thoroughness of this period may be different, with the average running approximately 30 hours. During this time, the applicant will review the role of the guardian ad litem, look at ethics, and review what types of duties they will be asked to perform.
Once the training program is completed, the only other step to being a guardian ad litem is to wait to be appointed. Depending on the need, the wait may be long or short. Those who have experience with being such a guardian may get more opportunities, but no matter how much experience one has, the opportunities will come.
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