What Is the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in a Family Law Case?
Many times, when parents split up, each may have differing opinions concerning what is in the best interests of their child(ren) when it comes to how custody should be handled. Are the concerns about substance abuse where time with one parent should be limited? Are there concerns that one parent may not ensure property attendance at school? Does one parent have a unstable or unsuitable living environment? Are there concerns about parental alienation?
When two parents cannot agree on what might be in the best interests of their child(ren), the Court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). Both parents can agree to the appointment of a GAL, one parent may request the court to make such an appointment, or the Court can unilaterally decide to make the appointment if it decides that a GAL will be beneficial to the case.
In this article, our Tampa family law attorney explains the role of a Guardian Ad Litem in a Florida family law case.
Who Is a Guardian Ad Litem?
- Florida law prioritizes the best interests of a child when making child custody or timesharing decisions. When parents cannot agree on what is in the best interests of their child(ren), the court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem when appointed shall act as next friend of the child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate but shall act in the child’s best interest. For all purposes, the GAL becomes a party to the case.
What Is the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem?
In Florida family law cases, GALs play a crucial role. The following are some of the things a Guardian Ad Litem is tasked with doing;
- Investigating the allegations of the pleadings affecting the child. A Guardian Ad Litem can interview the child, the parents, witnesses, teachers, caregivers, and any other person with information concerning the child’s welfare. During their investigation, the GAL can look into, among other things, the parents’ parenting styles, the people the child(ren) spends most of their time with, and the history of the parents’ relationship.
- Petitioning the court for orders to allow them to inspect or copy documents relevant to the child(ren) that may be otherwise privileged, such as medical records.
- Requesting the court to order expert examinations of the child(ren), parents, or other interested parties.
- Helping the court to obtain impartial expert examinations.
- Making recommendations to the court about what is in the best interest of the child(ren).
Pros and Cons of Having a Guardian Ad Litem
Like many other things in life, having a Guardian Ad Litem has advantages and disadvantages. The following are some of the pros of having a GAL;
- A Guardian Ad Litem will focus on the child’s or children’s best interests
- The expertise of a GAL can provide valuable insights and recommendations to the court
- A GAL is impartial and works for neither party
- A Guardian Ad Litem will give voice to your child(ren) who may otherwise not have a voice
Below are some of the possible drawbacks of having a Guardian Ad Litem;
- It may be costly to have a GAL
- A Guardian Ad Litem may bring their own life experiences, prejudices, biases and opinions about children to the case
- Involving a GAL can prolong the case
- Involving a Guardian Ad Litem may raise privacy concerns
Talk to a Tampa, FL, Family Law Attorney