Becoming a Guardian ad Litem in Florida
When a child doesn’t have a parent looking out for their best interests and make important decisions, the court may need to appoint a guardian ad litem. This person is often a volunteer and serves as the child’s voice when dealing with social service agencies and in in-court appearances. A guardian ad litem might also be appointed in cases where the parents cannot agree, and a neutral party is needed. In these cases, the parents are typically the ones who will appoint a guardian ad litem, and the person is typically compensated by the parents.
Responsibilities and Rights of a Guardian ad litem
The typical job of a guardian ad litem is to determine what course of action is best for a child, and to act as their representative to assist in achieving that result. The individual will make regular visits to the child and attend any related hearings and meetings to be his or her advocate.
They may have to investigate family law cases or any other legal disputes that involve the child, and they are authorized to interview people who may have information about the child or their well-being. This includes the child and any other witnesses. People commonly interviewed include teachers, doctors, counselors, police, neighbors, and family members. A guardian ad litem can also gain access to a child’s medical records provided they have permission, and they can request a court order that obligates the child, or the parents, to undergo an expert medical examination. The guardian ad litem can also assist the court with obtaining impartial expert witnesses.
The guardian ad litem, when acting through counsel, can file pleadings, motions, and petitions as deemed necessary. The rights, however, do not authorize them to engage in the practice of law.
Any information gained from the investigation can be used in reports submitted to the court. These reports will also contain information that documents the child’s wishes. The judge will then use the information in the reports when determining how to proceed or what the parental rights should be. The guardian ad litem typically remains in this role at least until the child has been placed in a safe and permanent home.
Florida’s Guardian ad Litem Program
Each county in Florida has its own guardian ad litem volunteer program, and there are over 10,000 people who have volunteered their time and can act as a guardian ad litem when requested. There is no specific legal background required to be a guardian ad litem, but you will need to undergo training and then join the volunteer program.
Retaining a Florida Family Law Attorney
If you are in the middle of a family law matter that requires the use of a guardian ad litem, it’s important to talk to a knowledgeable Boca Raton family law attorney first. The team at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White have more than 50 years of experience, including in matters where the state’s guardian ad litem program is involved. We work closely with the volunteers who take on this role when a child’s safety or welfare is at stake. If you need more information, contact us online or call our office at 561-391-9943.