Divorce is bad. When parents decide to separate and they have children, it can get ugly. The issue of child custody and visitation is one the court must make a decision on. The days where a mother automatically gets custody are no longer. The court looks at the best interest of the child/children. Sometimes the judge uses a third party to help in assessing the dynamic at issue.
A Guardian ad Litem represents the interests of a person unable to represent their own interests: the child or children. They become a party to the action, must be told in advance of scheduled court hearings relating to parenting issues, and are only dismissed by order of the presiding judge on the case. A Parenting Evaluator is not party to the action. They are also not an “advocate” for a child. They do not need to be given notice of hearings, and their role is done once they issue a final report.
A judge may appoint one or the other, or both depending upon the facts. Typically, Guardians ad Litem and Parenting Evaluators charge hourly rates. Parenting Evaluators often do “flat fee” rates. Guardian ad Litems may have a “fee limit” established by the court that they cannot exceed without court approval.