The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in Florida
Although many people think that a guardian ad litem in Florida is only used in a custody case during a divorce, that’s not always the case. The role and purpose of a guardian ad litem (GAL) is to advocate for a child’s best interest in any court proceeding. Not, as many people believe, the child’s wants. They are simultaneously a friend of the child while also being an investigator and evaluator. However, they must be impartial in all regards.
A Guardian Ad Litem Isn’t Against Anyone
This is a common complaint and misconception people have about a GAL. They not only ask questions of the child (or children), but also speak to both parents individually. They may also speak with school personnel, coaches and babysitters with whom the children spend time regularly. This is part of their investigation to determine what is in their best interests.
They May be Paid or Volunteers
Some people who take on the role of guardian ad litem in Florida do so as a volunteer. Others are paid for their work. If you have a paid GAL, his or her fee will be split between both parents. The judge may determine the percentage each parent pays.
The GAL May Testify in Court
Because every case is different, the findings of the guardian ad litem may be presented in one of several ways. All will draw up a written summary of their findings at least 20 days prior to the hearing. They may also present their findings to a judge verbally in chambers or in court.
They Advocate, They Do Not Make Decisions
A judge is not bound to agree with the findings of the guardian ad litem in Florida. They take the information from the GAL and the rest of the case into consideration before finalizing a time-sharing or custody agreement.
You Can Request a Guardian Ad Litem but You Cannot Decline One
If you feel that your case would benefit from the independent evaluation of a GAL, talk to your family law attorney about the process of getting one involved in your case. If a judge requires one, it is in your best interest to cooperate with the person assigned to your case.
Guardian Ad Litems Can Be Used at Any Time
Whether you or the co-parent requests modification to a time-sharing or custody agreement, a guardian ad litem may become involved. They are not solely used in new divorce cases. Almost any time there is an allegation of violence, neglect or substance abuse, a GAL will be assigned to the case. Again, this is because their job is to determine, with impartiality, what is in the best interests of the children.
Looking for a Divorce or Child Custody Attorney?
Call Wagstaff & Pitelis in Clearwater. We have experience in all types of cases including child custody and modification cases where a guardian ad litem is involved. Let us get started by calling (727) 584-8182 or filling out our contact form today.