If you are going through a divorce or modifying your parenting plan and you and the other parent cannot agree on a plan, you may be assigned a guardian ad litem (GAL). This individual is a volunteer and should not have had any previous connection to either parent. Sometimes the court makes the decision to appoint a GAL. However, if you would like one, you can request one.
What Will a Guardian ad Litem Do?
The assigned guardian ad litem will visit and observe your child in multiple settings. Those include, but are not limited to:
- The separate homes of both parents
- School or daycare
- Sporting events or other extra-curricular activities
The job of the GAL is to observe the child, including his or her interactions with the parents, and make recommendations to the judge in writing regarding their conclusions. If the child is old enough, the GAL can have conversation directly with the child. Florida statute 61.403 considers the GAL as “next friend of the child.”
What They Should Not Do
The position of guardian ad litem is a volunteer position. They do undergo training before entering into an assignment and agree to a standard of conduct. However, it is important for you as a parent to know what is expected of a GAL as well. A GAL will not:
- Ask why you and the other parent are divorcing
- Request financial details regarding the divorce or settlement
- Speak poorly about the other parent in front of you or the child(ren)
- Repeat conversations had at the other parent’s home or relay observations to the other parent
Anything that leads them to being or seeming to be impartial is improper conduct.
Should I Request One in My Case?
Whether you are beginning divorce proceedings or making a modification to your parenting plan, a guardian ad litem may be of benefit if you and the other parent cannot agree on child custody. We recommend talking to your divorce attorney to determine whether a GAL may benefit your situation.
For a full list of what a GAL can and cannot do, here is the statute. If you do not have a divorce or family law attorney, call Wagstaff and Pitelis at (727) 584-8182 or fill out our contact form for your confidential consultation.