According to Florida Statute §,39.820, a guardian ad litem (GAL) is a court-appointed legal representative representing a child’s interests in legal proceedings. Florida Juvenile Procedural Rules grant GALs privileges in cases of juvenile dependency. For example, in contentious divorce cases or child custody cases, a GAL may be appointed to provide the court with more information about how the case is proceeding and how the child’s welfare is being regarded. The guardian ad litem will investigate the issues of the case and ensure the child’s interests are being protected. A guardian ad litem can be assigned to a case if warranted, and while they are tasked with acting as a court representative ensuring the child’s interests are protected, they are not the child’s lawyer. They are not charged with giving legal advice to the child or their parents. Their role is to provide oversight for the court and complete a report with the details of the case for review.
What is the Role of a Guardian ad Litem?
A guardian ad litem serves as a court-appointed inspector investigating whether legal proceedings are considering what should happen to minors who will be affected by the outcome of the case. While a guardian ad litem may perform smaller tasks when working on behalf of the court, their primary role is to investigate and report back to the court the details of the proceedings. Given their duty, anyone appointed by the court as a GAL must be a keen observer and detail reporter. When parental responsibility and child custody issues need to be resolved or verified, the GAL will investigate and conduct home visits and interviews with teachers, doctors, and other parties to ensure the child’s best interest is being considered. Parents need to remain in constant communication with the GAL assigned to their case, answering questions, providing insight into their plans, and ensuring all children involved in the case are provided for and considered throughout the process.
The “Best Interests of the Child” Standard used in Florida
A guardian ad litem serves as the court's eyes and ears in cases where the “best interest of a child” standard must be met. Florida Statute §61.13 states that the “best interests of the child” is the legal standard required in child custody and time-sharing cases. The guardian ad litem is a neutral observer who will ensure the adults finalizing custodial matters consider the child’s mental and physical needs are being considered as they finalize their legal issues. At the end of the legal process, the GAL will issue a report with their recommendations to the court. The factors they will use to make their recommendations can be found in Florida Statues § 61.13 and §61.13001. The court relies on the information in the guardian ad litem’s report, and the judge will review it as they make their final decision. While the judge will make the final determination in any case with a GAL, the report and position of the guardian ad litem are taken seriously and weighed heavily.
Contact the Experienced Child Custody Attorneys for Help in Your Guardian ad Litem Case
If you have a case where a guardian ad litem has been appointed, the legal team at The Law Office of Paulette Hamilton, P.A. can help ensure you meet all your obligations to the court officer. We always help clients consider the children's best interests in every case we handle. We are compassionate and thoughtful legal professionals, and our goal is to help every client meet their legal objectives.
If your divorce or child custody case has been assigned a guardian ad litem, the attorneys at The Law Office of Paulette Hamilton, P.A. can advise you and offer legal assistance as your case is finalized. Schedule your free, confidential consultation by contacting (407) 624-5344!