As an former Attorney Ad Litem (currently inactive) we have represented children in domestic relations cases and guardianship cases when custody is an issue. A circuit judge appoints an attorney to represent the child or children in a custody case if the judge determines that the ad litem attorney would facilitate the case and further protect the rights of the child. Attorneys for the parents or parties of a custody case may also recommend that the judge appoint an attorney ad litem.
Attorney Ad Litem role and process
An attorney ad litem conducts an independent investigations consisting of a review of all relevant documents and records. The ad litem will interview the child, parents, and others having relevant knowledge to assist in the representation of the child. They will continue their investigation and have regular contact with the child during the entire case. He will explain to the child the role of the ad litem and court proceedings and hearings in terms that the child can understand.
The attorney ad litem will determine the “best interest of a child” by considering such custody criteria as:
- Moral Fitness factors: integrity, character, compassion, sobriety, religious training and practice, a newly acquired partner regarding the preceding elements;
- Stability factors: emotional stability, work stability, financial stability, residence and school stability, health, partner stability;
- Love and Affection factors: attention given, discipline, attitude toward education, social attitude, attitude toward access of the other party to the child, and attitude toward cooperation with the other party regarding the child's needs;
- The Child factors: relevant information regarding the child such as stated preference, age, sex, health, and testing and evaluation;
- Home and Location factors: relating to its location, size, child care arrangements and family composition.
An attorney ad litem will appear at all hearings to represent the best interest of the child. All relevant facts should be presented to the court and if the child's wishes differ from the ad litem's determination of the child's best interest, the ad litem will communicate the child's wishes to the court, as well as the recommendations of the ad litem. He will file appropriate pleadings on behalf of the child, call witnesses, participate fully in examination of witnesses, present relevant evidence, and advocate for timely hearings. He will make recommendations to the court for specific and appropriate services for the child and the child's family. All recommendations made by the attorney ad litem will be communicated to the attorneys for the parties, or if a party is pro se, then to the party.
When a final custody order is executed, the attorney ad litem's obligation to represent the child ends, unless directed otherwise by the court.
Attorney Ad Litem Qualifications:
To be qualified by the Arkansas Administrative Office of the Court (AOC) as an Attorney Ad Litem an Attorney must be licensed and in good standing with the Arkansas Supreme Court. They must also attend initial and annual Ad Litem training conducted by the AOC.
Michael V. Lauro, Jr. has attended this specialized Ad Litem training and has represented children in multiple custody cases but is no longer actively certified as an ad litem attorney.