When going through a divorce or child custody dispute, parents may be flooded with terms, court procedures, and roles of professionals that may be unfamiliar. It is important for parents to understand each attorney’s role in cases that involve or effect their children. One type of professional that may be unfamiliar to parents is a “guardian ad litem”.

A guardian ad litem is an attorney appointed by the court to represent the best interest of the child in a legal matter. In the context of divorce or child-custody disputes, the guardian ad litem presents to the court what they believe to be in the best interest of the child based on their factfinding.

This year, Iowa law expanded the importance and relevance of guardian ad litem involvement. Before this year, any child serving as a prosecuting witness for cases involving crimes such as child endangerment, neglect, abandonment, kidnapping, or sexual abuse who was under the age of fourteen was entitled to a guardian ad litem. All children between the age of fourteen and seventeen could be appointed a guardian ad litem under the same conditions, but the guardian ad litem had to agree to participate without compensation. This made it difficult to find quality attorneys to represent older children’s interests.

Under the new rules passed under House File 361, all children under the age of eighteen serving as a witness for specified crimes are entitled to have their interests represented by a guardian ad litem. This expansion to the age-range ensures that more children have their interests represented in difficult and sensitive cases.

If you have questions about the role of a guardian ad litem, contact the attorneys at Simpson, Jensen, Abels, Fisher & Bouslog, P.C. at (515) 288-5000 to discuss your case with our firm.

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