What Role Does a Guardian ad Litem Play in a Florida Divorce

A Guardian Ad Litem is a person that is assigned by your family-court judge to act as the judge’s eyes and ears outside of the courtroom. Judges are tasked with the difficult assignment of deciding what is in the best interests of children when it comes to custody, timesharing, parenting responsibilities, etc., but they are limited to the information they are provided in the evidence phase at trial or hearings. Judges cannot leave their bench and go to your home and interview family members or go to your child’s school or speak to your child’s therapist outside of the courtroom. They send a Guardian Ad Litem to investigate and report back to them information they need to make critical decisions pertaining to children.

A Guardian Ad Litem can be appointed in a case if the Judge feels it is necessary, or if a party requests the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem, or if another professional involved in your family case recommends the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem must be appointed by the Court in cases that involve allegations of child abuse, abandonment or neglect where such allegations are determined by the Court to be well-founded. Florida Statute § 61.401 governs the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem. Once a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed by the Court in your family law case, they become a party to the case and they are made aware of every step that is taken by either parent, every motion that is filed, and every request that is submitted to the Court. While a Guardian Ad Litem cannot make decisions for your children or dictate what parents must do with respect to raising their children, they can investigate allegations and look into specific issues, and they can make recommendations to the Court as to what they believe is in your child’s best interests.

It is important that you have an attorney assist you with proceedings relating to the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem in your case. The judge’s Order appointing the Guardian Ad Litem in your case is usually very specific, and if you are not careful, you can waive certain privileges and rights to privacies and the Guardian Ad Litem may be given access to confidential information regarding your mental health, substance abuse issues, your child’s mental health, etc. Additionally, details regarding what your child tells the Guardian Ad Litem and rules about whether that information can be divulged to the Judge will likely be included in your Court Order. We recommend you have an experienced family law attorney assist you in this area, as a Guardian Ad Litem can be very helpful in your case or, sometimes, damaging to your case. Please contact our office to discuss your options in this area; do not try to navigate the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem on your own.

For more information from one of our Florida divorce and family law attorneys, feel free to contact us at 561-531-9132.