What is the true role of a Florida guardian ad litem?
If you are a parent in a Florida divorce or other court proceeding involving your children, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for your kids. You may question the impartiality of the GAL, but being impartial is not his or her job. Rather, the GAL must always be guided by what he or she believes is in your children's best interests. It is also entirely possible that you may disagree with the GAL's opinion of what is in the kids' best interests.
Guardians ad litem are investigators
We have previously discussed in this space the role and powers of a GAL in Florida divorce or custody proceedings. A GAL is not quite a guardian and not quite an advocate, although some aspects of those roles overlap with that of the GAL. The role is — if you were to try to informally describe it — that of an investigative helper for the judge, someone to uncover relevant and important facts that concern the child’s wellbeing, safety and happiness with only that child’s best interests at heart. The GAL’s reporting to the court can assist the judge in making decisions that are more likely to be in the child’s best interest and that protect the child’s welfare.
The GAL may conduct interviews, review records, request medical examinations of interested parties, gather expert information, present witnesses, make recommendations to the judge and more. Some of these powers will require judicial permission, depending on the circumstances.
Guardians ad litem keep the child in mind through parental conflict
The 1999 District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, case of Perez v. Perez articulated the role of the GAL in a custody dispute, “Litigation involving custody issues can be particularly acrimonious and, unfortunately, children are particularly vulnerable to the harms commonly associated with hostility and conflict between parents. Guardians ad litem serve an important role, under limited circumstances, by acting as representatives of children and promoting society’s interest in protecting children from the traumas commonly associated with divorce and custody disputes.”
If you face a custody dispute or other court matter involving your child, talk to a family lawyer about your concerns regarding a GAL. The attorney will provide information about the GAL’s role, powers and responsibilities and advice about how to respond.