Florida Family Law: What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
In certain high-conflict divorce and child custody cases, a Florida court may appoint a guardian ad litem to help investigate the dispute and ensure that a child’s best interests are fully protected. If a guardian ad litem has been appointed in your case, it is crucial that you have a basic understanding of their role in the process.
To help parents and other interested parties better prepare for custody and visitation cases, our Clearwater child custody attorney explains what a guardian ad litem is and what role a guardian ad litem plays in a Florida family law case.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
Under Florida law (Florida Statutes §61.403), a guardian ad litem is a court appointed representative who is tasked with acting as the ‘next friend of the child’. While their duty is to help protect the child’s best interests, a guardian ad litem is NOT a child’s ‘lawyer’ or ‘advocate’. Instead, it is better to think of a guardian ad litem as an investigator or an evaluator.
What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?
A guardian ad litem is a fact finder. In Pinellas County, FL in high conflict family law cases, other than dependency actions, this person will be a family law attorney. They are an investigator who works on behalf of the court, with the core purpose of determining what is best for the child.
A guardian ad litem will often conduct interviews of the parents involved in the case. They may also talk to the child directly. You should expect that their investigation will be detailed. As a parent, it is crucial to keep open communication, and a respectful positive relationship with the guardian ad litem that has been appointed in your case.
Understanding Florida’s Best Interests of the Child Standard
Under Florida law (Florida Statutes § 61.13), family law courts look to the ‘best interests of the child’ legal standard to make determinations in child custody and time-sharing disputes. This is a comprehensive standard. The guardian ad litem is fundamentally a neutral party who will help to ensure that a child’s physical safety, psychological health, and emotional well-being are properly protected.
Florida Courts Rely on a Guardian Ad Litem — But Judges Make the Final Call
Florida family law courts take the recommendations of a guardian ad litem very seriously. Through the nature of their position, a guardian ad litem will have access to considerable sensitive information about the child and about the case. As such, their view of the case matters. That being said, the guardian ad litem does not make the final decision in any child custody or child visitation case. Courts cannot delegate decisions to a guardian ad litem: the ultimate authority belongs to the judge.
Contact Our Clearwater, FL Child Custody Lawyer Today
At the Law Office of Gale H. Moore P.A., our Florida child custody lawyer is a committed advocate for parents. Gale Moore also has experience serving as a guardian ad litem in high conflict divorce cases. For a private consultation, please contact us today at 727-584-2528.