The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in the State of Florida
The role of the guardian ad litem in the state of Florida is governed by Florida statute 61.403. Guardian ad litems are usually appointed in cases involving significant disputes between parents regarding the well being of the child or children. It should be noted that a guardian ad litem is not a mediator for the underlying case. The guardian ad litem is solely responsible for reporting on what is in the best interests of the child.
In short, the guardian ad litem meets with both parents, the child at issue and any other witnesses, as appropriate. The guardian ad litem then issues a report to the court. Typically, the court will determine the amount each parent will contribute to pay the fees of the guardian ad litem. In some cases, the guardian ad litem may be a volunteer.
What Does the Florida Statute Provide?
The Florida statute provides that the guardian ad litem will act as a “next friend of the child” in court but not as an attorney for the child. The guardian ad litem may investigate any pleadings involving the child. The guardian ad litem may assist the court by helping to obtain any required expert examinations. This could include, but is not limited to, medical doctors, dentists, therapists and psychologists. The guardian ad litem may also request the court provide him or her access to any of those reports. In addition, a guardian ad litem may ask the court, through counsel, to order examinations of other parties involved in an action, such as parents.
The Findings of the Guardian Ad Litem
The guardian ad litem may also file a report with the court. The report must be filed at least 20 days prior to a court hearing. A guardian ad litem can also make oral comments to the court. Comments, written or oral, by a guardian ad litem can include the wishes of the child.
The Thoughts of the Guardian Ad Litem
An appointed guardian ad litem may comment on any proposed agreement between the parties that affects the child. This must be done within 10 days a proposal is served on the guardian ad litem. Through counsel, the guardian ad litem may be present at any proceeding, including, for example, hearings and depositions. The guardian ad litem also has the ability to require the attendance of witnesses, through counsel.
What are the Limitations on a Guardian Ad Litem?
Florida statute 61.20 provides for a parenting study in family law cases involving children. However, that statute does not name a guardian ad litem report as included in the parenting study. Concerns arise that a guardian ad litem report may be of limited evidentiary value because of hearsay rules.
If You are Considering a Divorce and Have Children, Reach Out to Us
If you are considering a divorce, and think that child custody may be an issue, contact Fort Lauderdale attorney Sandra Bonfiglio to schedule a consultation. Sandra Bonfiglio specializes in divorce and family law, and can help guide you through the process.