What is a Guardian Ad Litem, and What Role Does It Play in Child-Related Disputes?
The guardian ad litem program in Florida trains individuals to represent the child’s best interests (as a fair and impartial third party) when both parties (parents) cannot resolve a dispute. While appointed by the judge, either party can also request that the court appoint a guardian ad litem. Florida state law refers to this person as a “friend of the child,” and provides them with numerous responsibilities (to the extent that they are necessary to advance the best interests of the child).
Guardian ad Litem Responsibilities
The guardian ad litem may:
- Investigate the allegations of the pleadings affecting the child, or interview the child, witnesses, or any other person having information concerning the welfare of the child;
- Petition the court for an order allowing the guardian ad litem to inspect and copy any records and documents which relate to the child, the child’s parents, or any other person that the child resides with;
- Request the court to order examinations of the child, the child’s parents, or other relevant parties by medical doctors, mental health professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists, dentists, or other health care providers;
- Assist the court in obtaining impartial expert examinations;
- Address the court and make written or oral recommendations;
- File such pleadings, motions, or petitions for relief as they deem appropriate or necessary; and
- Participate in all depositions, hearings, and other proceedings in the action and may compel attendance of witnesses.
The guardian ad litem needs to file a written report, which may include recommendations and a statement of the wishes of the child. The report must be filed and served on all parties at least 20 days prior to the hearing at which it will be presented. The guardian also needs to submit their recommendations to the court regarding any stipulation or agreement regarding the interest or welfare of the child within 10 days after the d stipulation or agreement is served.
Who is Qualified to be a Guardian ad Litem? How Are They Paid?
The person appointed must be either an attorney or someone certified by Florida’s guardian ad litem program or by a certified legal aid program. In cases involving founded allegations of child abuse, only a guardian certified by the state program or an attorney may be appointed.
Unless the parents have limited income and a guardian agrees to serve for no fee (or a reduced fee), guardian ad litems are paid by the parties. The judge usually sets the total fee and the amounts to be paid by each party/parent.
Contact Us for Assistance
Whether you are seeking to establish custody and time-sharing through your divorce, or seeking parenting rights through other means, we can help you through the entire process. Please contact Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. to schedule a consultation. We represent both mothers and fathers in child custody matters in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and throughout Broward County.