In Travis County, a “guardian ad litem” is a court-appointed official who is supposed to represent the best interests of the child in a family law proceeding. While guardians ad litem are only automatically appointed in parental termination cases, they may be appointed in other child custody proceedings as well. A Texas judge is more likely to appoint a guardian ad litem when the conservatorship of a child is contested between the two parents.
Likewise, either parent may request the appointment of a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem will usually have an advanced degree in social work or some other field. While the court has full-time guardians ad litem on staff, there are also guardians ad litem available in private practice as well, which the Travis County courts are willing to appoint.
Upon appointment, the guardian ad litem will conduct an investigation into the child’s circumstances. Usually, this will involve interviewing both the parents and the child. The guardian ad litem may conduct additional investigation as well.
At the end of the investigation, the guardian ad litem will submit a report to the judge both explaining what was found and making recommendations about custody and parenting time. Ultimately, these are only recommendations, as the judge still makes all final decisions. It is important to keep in mind that the guardian ad litem will consider the child’s wishes and the parent’s wishes in determining the child’s best interests, but those are not the only considerations.