Guardian Ad Litem

Legal Definition and Related Resources of Guardian

Meaning of Guardian

A person who has the legal right and duty to take care of another person or that person’s property because that other person (for example, a child) cannot legally take care of himself or herself. The arrangement is called guardianship. Guardians may be said to be of various kinds: (1) testamentary guardian is one appointed by the last will and testament of the surviving parent . (2) Guardian by election is one chosen by the infant himself in a situation where the infant would otherwise be without a guardian. (3) Guardian by nature at common law , is the father or, on his death , the mother. (4) Guardian de son tort is one who assumes the role of a guardian without any authority . (5) Guardian ad litem is a guardian appointed by the court to defend and protect the interest of an infant. As for an illegitimate child, the mother is the natural guardian , having superior claims over that of the father, unless the mother is proved to be an unfit person. See Jones v Smith, (Fla.App.) 278 So.2d 339; Re Connolly, 43 Ohio App.2d 38, 332 N.E.2d376. §1-201(16) of the uniform probate Code defines the word as a person who has qualified as a guardian of a minor or incapacitated person pursuant to testamentary or Court appointment , but excludes one who is merely a guardian ad litem.

Guardian Alternative Definition

One who legally has the care and management of the person, or the estate, or both, of a child during its minority. Reeve, Dom. Rel. 311. A person having the control of the property of a minor without that of his person is known in the civil law, as well as in some of the states of the United States, by the name of curator. 1 Lee. Elm. 241; Rev. St. Mo. 1855, p. 823. Guardians are also sometimes appointed of idiots, spendthrifts, etc. The general classes of guardians are:
(1) Guardian by chancery. This guardianship, although unknown at the common law, is well established in practice now. It grew up in the time of William III., and had its foundation in the royal prerogative of the king as parens patriae. 2 Fonbl. Eq. (5th Ed.) 246. This power the sovereign is presumed to have delegated to the chancellor. 10 Ves. 63; 2 P. Wms. 118; Reeve, Dom. Rel. 817. By virtue of it, the chancellor appoints a guardian where there is none, and exercises a superintending control over all guardians, however appointed, removing them for misconduct, and appointing others in their stead. Co. Litt. 89; 2 Bulst. 679; 1 P. Wms. 703; 8 Mod. 214; 1 Ves. Jr. 160; 2 Kent, Comm. 227. This power, in the United States, resides in courts of equity (1 Johns. Ch. [N. Y.] 99; 2 Johns. Ch. [N. Y.] 439), and in probate or surrogate courts (2 Kent, Comm. 226; 30 Miss. 458; 3 Bradf. Sur. [N. Y.] 133).
(2) Guardian by nature. The father, and, on his death, the mother. 2 Kent, Comm. 220; 2 Root (Conn.) 320; 7 Cow. (N. Y.) 36; 2 Wend. (N. Y.) 158; 4 Mass. 675.
(3) Guardian by nurture. This guardianship belonged to the father, then to the mother. The subject of it extended to the younger children, not the heirs apparent. In this country it does not exist, or, rather, it is nierged in the higher and more durable guardianship by nature, because all the children are heirs, and, therefore, the subject of that guardianship. 2 Kent, Comm. 221; Reeve, Dom. Rel. 315; 6 Ga. 401. It extended to the person only (6 Conn. 494; 40 Eng. Law & Eq. 109), and terminated at the age of fourteen (1 Bl. Comm. 461).
(4) Guardian in socage. This guardianship arose when socage lands descended to an infant under fourteen years of age; at which period it ceased if another guardian was appointed, otherwise it continued. And. 313; 5 Johns. (N. Y.) 66. The person entitled to it by common law was the next of kin, who could not by any possibility inherit the estate. 1 Bl. Comm. 461. Although formerly recognized in New York, it was never common in the United States (5 Johns. [N. Y.] 66; 7 Johns. [N. Y.] 157), because, by the statute of descents generally in force in this country, those who are next of kin may eventually inherit. Wherever it has been recognized, it has been in a form differing materially from its character at common law. 15 Wend. (N. Y.) 631.
(5) Guardians by statute. These are of two kinds: First, testamentary; second, those appointed by court in pursuance of some statute.
(6) Testamentary guardians. These are appointed by the deed or last will of the father, and they supersede the claims of all other guardians, and have control of the person and the real and personal estate of the child till he arrives at full age.
(7) Guardians appointed by court. The greater number of guardians among us, by far, are those appointed by court, in conformity with statutes which regulate their powers and duties. In the absence of special provisions, their rights and duties are governed by the general law on the subject of guardian and ward.

Adoption Legal Definition of Guardian

Person who fulfills some of the responsibilities of the legal parent role, although the courts or birth parents may continue to hold some jurisdiction of the child. Guardians do not have the same reciprocal rights of inheritance as birth or adoptive parents. Guardianship is subject to ongoing supervision by the court and ends at the child’s majority or by order of the court.

Learn more with the Adoption Thesaurus

Related Entries of Guardian in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Guardian in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Guardian in Historical Law

You might be interested in the historical meaning of this term. Browse or search for Guardian in Historical Law in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

Search for legal acronyms and/or abbreviations containing Guardian in the Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary.

Related Legal Terms

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Mentioned in these terms

Conservator, En Ventre Sa Mere, Indian Tribe, Infant, Mental Incompetence, Natural Guardian, Next Friend, Testamentary Guardian.


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Related topics Guardian in the World Encyclopedia of Law


This definition of Guardian is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

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English Spanish Translation of Guardian Ad Litem

Tutor Ad Litem

Find other English to Spanish translations from the Pocket Spanish English Legal Dictionary (print and online), the English to Spanish to English dictionaries (like Guardian Ad Litem) and the Word reference legal translator.

Guardian ad litem in Law Enforcement

Main Entry: Law Enforcement in the Legal Dictionary. This section provides, in the context of Law Enforcement, a partial definition of guardian ad litem.


See Also

  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Police Work
  • Law Enforcement Agency

Further Reading

Guardian Ad Litem


See Also

  • See children’s guardian.

Guardian ad Litem


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