Child custody lawyers are different and separate from guardians ad litem. There are not many cases where a child custody lawyer is hired by a parent, but those cases where such a lawyer is hired have extenuating circumstances and divorce situations that are complicated. The following examples are cases where a child custody attorney is most certainly warranted.
One Parent Was Physically and/or Sexually Abusive
There was a recent news story regarding a case where a woman was forced to give up some of her custodial rights to the man that raped her and fathered a child through that rape. This is a nightmare that no person ever wants to undergo, especially considering the long criminal history of the person seeking parental rights. Additionally, marriages or relationships resulting in children that then become victims of one of the parents should have legal representation involved. If you were married to someone who was physically and/or sexually abusing your children, you need to hire a custody lawyer to protect the kids from your former spouse.
You Are One-Half of a Same Sex Couple
This is a major problem legally, especially when the children are genetically and biologically tied to only one parent. Even in states where your same sex marriage is recognized, custodial rights still are awarded to the parent who fathered or carried and birthed the child(ren). If you are the parent who did not birth, carry, or father the children, you may have zero or very limited rights to the kids after the divorce. If you want a continued relationship and a right to visit them, you may have to fight in court for it.
The Other Parent Has Been in Absentia and You Want His/Her Rights Terminated
This is another difficult and bizarre situation. It typically occurs when one partner walks out on the family and just disappears. You may have tried to get child support after the divorce, but he/she does not stay in one place or work a job for very long. When you can no longer track him/her down, or you cannot afford to track him/her down with the help of an agency or P.I., then it is time to consider having that parent's rights terminated. It will not be easy, since most courts insist on serving the missing parent and warning him/her about your filing. However, if he/she does not show up or cannot be found, your lawyer can easily make a case for termination of rights, and then you are your children's sole legal parent.