Florida Family Law: What is a Guardian Ad-Litem?
If your Florida divorce involves minor children, or if you are involved in a Florida child custody dispute, a judge has the power to appoint a guardian ad-litem for your case. This can be done at the sole discretion of the judge and it may also be requested by either of the parents. In the most simple terms, a guardian ad-litem is a neutral party who is tasked with investigating the case. More specifically, a guardian ad-litem’s role is to determine what type of arrangement is in the best interests of the child. This determination is extremely important because Florida courts use the ‘best interests of the child’ standard to make decisions in child custody and child time sharing cases.
Understanding the Best Interests of the Child Standard
The most important thing that parents need to remember about the best interests of the child standard is that it is comprehensive. In other words, when assessing what’s best for the child, Florida courts try to take the broadest and most balanced view possible. Florida courts will consider the child’s:
- Physical safety;
- Psychological health;
- Emotional well-being:
- Social development; and
- Desires, assuming they are old enough to have input.
Parents must remember that their needs and desires will be considered secondary to the interests of the child. Florida law guides courts to look out for children above all else.
The Recommendation of a Guardian Ad-Litem Carries Tremendous Weight
If a guardian ad-litem has been appointed in your divorce or child custody case, you need to take their role in the process very seriously. At the end of the the investigation, the guardian ad-litem will file a comprehensive report about the status of your child with the family law court. This report may contain a significant amount of sensitive information. In fact, the guardian ad-litem will often have legal authority to access intimate personal information about you and your child. For example, medical records may be accessed. Further, the guardian ad-litem may order an expert evaluation of the child or either of the parents. When the report is produced at the end of the investigation, it may contain either a general or a specific recommendation. The information and recommendation included within the official report will have a major impact on the court’s decision. Remember, courts appoint people they trust to be the guardian ad-litem for any individual case. You must be proactive to keep adverse information from being included in this report. Parents should work with an experienced family law attorney throughout the entirety of the divorce or child custody dispute process.
Do You Need Family Law Assistance in Central Florida?
At Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A., our compassionate legal team handles a wide variety of Florida family law cases. We are committed to helping families find collaborative solutions to any sensitive child-related dispute. At the same time, we will always fight aggressively to protect the legal rights and parental interests of our clients. To learn more about our services, please do not hesitate to contact our Orlando office today.