Florida Family Law: What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
If you are a parent who is getting divorced or you are otherwise involved in a child custody dispute, you may have come across the term ‘guardian ad litem’. Our Tampa child custody lawyers are often asked questions about the role of a guardian ad litem. For example, you may be wondering: If a guardian ad litem is appointed, how will it impact my family law case?
We want to make sure that all Florida parents have the information, tools, and resources that they need to protect their legal rights and parental interests. Here, we explain the most important things that you need to know about a guardian ad litem and how they could impact your custody or visitation case in Florida.
Understanding the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem
Florida law (Florida Statutes § 61.403) controls the powers and authority of a guardian ad litem. Essentially, this individual — usually a trained family law attorney — is appointed to serve as the “next friend of the child” in legal proceedings. Florida law recognizes that the courtroom is generally not the best place for a young and vulnerable child. It is the duty of the appointed guardian ad litem to conduct an investigation to ensure that the child’s interests are properly protected during family law proceedings. Though, it should be made clear that a guardian ad litem is not the child’s attorney. They are an investigator and evaluator tasked with determining what is in the child’s interests.
A Guardian Ad Litem Must Consider the ‘Best Interests of the Child’ Standard
In Florida, all child custody and child visitation cases are decided by considering what is in the best interests of the child. The guardian ad litem is tasked with helping the court determine what type of arrangement is actually best to protect the child’s health and safety and to promote their positive social development. For the perspective of the parents, the guardian ad litem is fundamentally a neutral party in the case.
Recommendations are Important — But They are Not Final
A guardian ad litem is probably best thought of as an influential investigator. If appointed to help resolve a child custody or child time-sharing dispute, a guardian ad litem has considerable investigative power. In addition, they usually submit a detailed report that includes both their general findings and, potentially, their professional recommendations. These recommendations will carry a significant amount of weight with the court. That being said, a guardian ad litem does not make final decisions. A final ruling will always be made by the court.
Speak to an Experienced Tampa, FL Family Law Attorney Right Away
At Bubley & Bubley, P.A., our Florida family law lawyers are compassionate advocates for our clients. If you have any questions about a guardian ad litem or how one may impact your child custody case, we are here to help. To set up a fully confidential family law consultation, please contact our law firm today. With an office in Tampa, we serve individuals and families throughout Hillsborough County.