Under Florida law, the divorce court may appoint a guardian ad litem to assist the court in determining the best interests of the children in child-related divorce and post-judgment cases. The role of the guardian ad litem is not to advocate for either parent’s position, but to act in the child’s best interest.
Florida Statutes, Section 61.403, gives the guardian various powers in order to act in the child’s best interests. The guardian may investigate pleading allegations, review records involving the child or other family members, and may request expert evaluations of the child and the parents. The guardian can also file pleadings and motions seeking relief and may attend all proceedings in the case. The guardian can even provide the court with its own recommendations regarding any type of agreement between the parties affecting the welfare of the child.
Prior to final hearing, the guardian submits a written report to the court. The guardian’s report and recommendations can significantly influence the court’s ultimate decision regarding the child-related issues. The guardian, unlike the court, has spent considerable time gathering information regarding the best interests of the child, usually interviewing and speaking with many individuals familiar with the child and/or family members.
The guardian’s role is to assist the court in determining the best interests of the child. As a practical matter, however, because the guardian has a depth of exposure and knowledge regarding the child that the court will never have, many trial judges rely heavily on a guardian’s recommendations in resolving child-related disputes. Parties and their counsel should carefully choose a guardian ad litem who is well experienced in difficult child-related cases, who will remain unbiased throughout the case, and who has the oral and written communication skills to make an effective presentation to the court.
If you or someone you know need help is a child custody case, please contact an experienced family law attorney or an experienced custody attorney.