Understanding The Role Of A Guardian Ad Litem In A Florida Family Law Case (An Advocate For The Child’s Best Interests)
Are you a parent going through a custody case in Florida? If you are locked in a high-conflict case or there are some unique issues, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) may be appointed by a court. It is important for parents to understand what a GAL is and what it is not. Here, our Clearwater family attorney provides an overview of the role of a guardian ad litem in a Florida family law case.
Background: Florida is a Best Interests of the Children State
In Florida, the courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making decisions in custody and visitation cases (Florida Statutes § 61.13). The standard is meant to ensure that the child’s welfare —physically, emotionally, and developmentally—is given top priority. When the court needs to gain a clearer understanding of the child’s needs and desires, a Guardian ad Litem may be appointed.
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Helps to Determine the Best Interests of the Child
Under Florida law (Florida Statutes §61.403), a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a neutral third party appointed by the court to represent and advocate for the best interests of the child involved in a family law case. To be clear, a GAL is not the child’s lawyer.
Court Will Appoint Guardian ad Litem, but Not Needed in Every Case
Notably, a Guardian ad Litem is not appointed in every family law case. The court will decide whether or not to appoint a GAL based on the specific circumstances of each case, such as high-conflict situations, allegations of abuse or neglect, or when the court believes that the child’s best interests may not be adequately represented by either parent. Florida courts also have the right to appoint a GAL if necessary to determine and protect the child’s best interests.
A Guardian ad Litem is an Evaluator, Not a Decision-Maker
While the GAL plays a crucial role in providing valuable information and insights to the court, they do not make the decisions in the case. The GAL serves as an evaluator and advocate for the child, presenting their findings and recommendations to the judge. It is ultimately the judge’s responsibility to make the final determination based on the evidence, the GAL’s report, and the best interests of the child.
Schedule a Fully Confidential Consultation With Our Largo, FL Family Lawyer Today
At the Law Office of Gale H. Moore P.A., our Florida family lawyer provides comprehensive, personalized legal guidance and support. If you have any questions about the role of a guardian ad litem, we are here to help. Contact our firm today to set up your confidential family law consultation. With a law office in Largo, we help parents navigate complex divorce and custody cases in Pinellas County and throughout the surrounding area.