What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Family law courts in Florida are appointing Guardians Ad Litem in cases more frequently than ever before. A guardian ad litem can be used in a family law court (divorce, custody, paternity, etc.) and can also be used in a dependency court (where there are allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect). This blog post will focus on the guardian ad litems used in the family law courts, specifically when there are issues regarding minor children.

A guardian ad litem, according to Florida Statute, shall act as next friend of the minor child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate but shall act in the child’s best interest. In my experience, the majority of Guardians Ad Litem used in family court are licensed attorneys who are members in good standing with the Florida Bar. However, they do not necessarily have to be attorneys. In the family law context, Guardian Ad Litems are usually appointed to make a recommendation regarding a parenting plan or a request for relocation. Also, they are often appointed to be a “voice” for the minor children. A child cannot simply testify in court or tell the judge his or her preference for time sharing. In order for a child to testify, the court must grant special permission. Usually, parents and judges do not want to subject the children to the stress and emotional difficulty of having to testify for or against a parent. Instead, court’s often use guardian ad litems to testify on behalf of the children. This leaves the children out of the often high conflict court room. If you think a guardian ad litem might be an important addition to your case, contact your expert family law attorney to discuss this matter futher.