The Guardian Ad Litem in Florida Divorces
In a Florida divorce, there is a familiar cast of characters: the divorcing spouses, the attorneys representing each of these parties, the judge, and sometimes witnesses or experts who testify concerning the parties’ assets, liabilities, and parenting abilities. One individual who may appear in some divorce or child custody is a guardian ad litem. Who is this person, and what part does he or she play in divorce and child custody proceedings?
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A guardian ad litem is a specially-trained advocate who is tasked with advising the court as to the best interests of a child or children. Although some guardian ad litems are practicing attorneys, a guardian ad litem can be anyone who has gone through the requisite training. The guardian ad litem (sometimes abbreviated as GAL) submits his or her recommendations concerning the best interests of a child or children in a written report after consulting with the child’s parents, caregivers, teachers, and other individuals involved in the child’s life.
When is a Guardian ad Litem Used?
Florida courts have discretion to appoint and utilize a guardian ad litem when the court feels the best interests of the child require such an appointment. Although guardian ad litems are a frequent fixture in criminal or civil cases involving suspected child abuse, Florida law allows courts to appoint guardian ad litem in divorce proceedings, child custody proceedings, and any other time the court feels it is necessary to have an independent opinion on what may constitute the best interests of the child.
Is a Guardian ad Litem an Attorney for My Child?
Sometimes individuals mistakenly believe that a GAL is an attorney for the child. While a GAL is concerned about the best interests of your child, it is a mistake to believe the GAL is your child’s attorney. An attorney who represents the interests of your child is obligated to advocate for what his or her client – your child – wishes, in most cases. Conversely, a GAL advocates for what he or she believes is in your child’s best interests. While the GAL can take your child’s wishes and desires into account, ultimately the GAL makes his or her own recommendations.
How Can a Guardian ad Litem Help (or Hurt) My Child Custody or Divorce Proceeding?
In any divorce or child custody (NEED proceeding, a court will make orders regarding the child based on what the court believes is in the best interests of the child. Depending on the facts of your situation, a GAL can either help or hurt your case. For instance, if you have provided care for the child and are an active part in your child’s life (you attend school functions and speak with your child’s doctors, for instance) while your ex-spouse is not, a GAL can provide a helpful and objective second opinion to the court supporting your desire for custody. However, if you are not involved in your child’s life, a GAL can bring this to the court’s attention – along with his or her recommendation that you not be awarded residential custody of your child.
Contact Us for Child Custody Support
Child custody proceedings (or divorces where child custody is an issue) can be some of the most hotly contested court proceedings. You need an experienced, knowledgeable and successful advocate on your side, watching out for your interests. All Family Law Group, P.A. is dedicated to helping you achieve the best results in your case. If your case involves a GAL, we can help you understand that person’s role in your case and how best to work with him or her. Contact the Tampa divorce lawyers at our offices in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+