What Is a Guardian ad Litem?

Sometimes, divorce and child custody cases get extremely contentious. When these types of high-conflict situations arise, a Florida court may choose to appoint a Guardian ad Litem. This is to help ensure that, amidst everything else going on, the best interests of the child are always protected.

Understanding a Guardian ad Litem

A Guardian ad Litem is appointed on behalf of a minor child (meaning, under the age of 18). A Guardian ad Litem may be appointed upon a motion of attorneys involved in a case or upon motion of a pro se litigant. The court may also opt to have a Guardian ad Litem appointed when there may be issues in a case relating to child safety or other circumstances warrant further investigation. While the Guardian ad Litem works to protect and advocate on behalf of the child and the child’s best interests, he or she is not actually acting as the child’s attorney. The Guardian ad Litem is a kind of fact-finder tasked with investigating the child’s situation and making recommendations to the court based on the information gathered. Guardian ad Litems are appointed where there is a substantial amount of conflict between parties with issues relating to children or there is reasonable concern regarding the safety and well-being of the child.

Specifically, a Guardian ad Litem is tasked with investigating things such as potential child neglect, child endangerment, or the child’s potential exposure to health and safety risks. The Guardian ad Litem will gather information through things such as home visits and interviews with family members, friends, and other witnesses who have observed the child’s living situation. The Guardian ad Litem may also gain access to things such as the child’s medical records or school records. He or she will then report back to the judge and make recommendations based on the findings. The Guardian ad Litem may request the court order things such as evaluations of the child or the child’s parents. He or she may also help in finding the necessary experts for these examinations.

In Dependency cases, a Guardian ad Litem is a volunteer. In family court cases, such as divorce cases or paternity cases, the Guardian ad Limited is paid for by the parties. Sometimes, however, the parents in these cases may have limited income and the Guardian ad Litem will agree to waive the fee or work at a reduced fee rate.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

While the Guardian ad Litem is not actually the attorney for the child, it is often advantageous to have a family law attorney act as Guardian ad Litem. With knowledge of the family law system and experience working in and investigating family law issues, the trusted attorneys at Orlando Family Team can provide well-informed recommendations to the court in order to protect the best interests of a child involved in a particularly contentious family law case. Contact us today.