Tips When Working With A Guardian Ad Litem In A Florida Family Law Case
Children deserve special protections whenever they are the subject of a legal proceeding affecting their care, comfort, and best interests. Judges have a legal obligation to consider the best interests of the child(ren) and how they will be cared for going forward. However, as much as they would like to dedicate individual attention, they cannot be everywhere at once. To fill the gap, Florida allows courts to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to act as the child’s advocate. The GAL investigates, reports back to the judge, and completes other tasks as established by the court.
A GAL is often appointed in divorces, but the best interests of a child can be an issue in other family law cases. Examples include paternity, custody by an extended family member, neglect and abuse cases, and many others. GAL almost always charge for their services. The cost of the Guardian is often shared by the parties but not necessarily equally. It is always wise to retain a Dade City family lawyer when your child is involved in the legal process, but some tips when working with a guardian ad litem are also helpful.
Prepare for Communication and Cooperation: The best approach for dealing with a GAL is to be open and responsive. This individual is acting as the liaison between the court and your child, and all tasks the GAL undertakes are intended to support your child’s needs. Instances of dishonesty, belligerence, and refusals to cooperate will make it back to the judge. Similarly, most GAL’s are paid by the hour. Constantly reaching out to them to report minor details will likely be very costly and may not get the result you intended.
Gather Information the GAL Needs: You can get a head start on supporting the guardian ad litem by collecting the documents that will be necessary for the investigation. Make sure to include:
- Medical records;
- School and daycare records;
- Pay stubs and income tax records;
- Any reports or contacts with Florida Department of Children and Families;
- Criminal records and paperwork for juvenile cases;
- Records of court cases involving others in your household; and,
- The names and telephone numbers of people who have RELEVANT information about your family.
- Document regarding therapy and counseling.
Comply with Instructions and Requests: The GAL may ask for additional information, request that you sit for an interview, or sign a release to obtain certain records. Your lawyer will guide you with these requests for information, but the spirit of cooperation is key.
Be Ready for Home Visits: One request you might receive from the guardian ad litem is for a home visit, so that he or she can observe the child’s living conditions and interactions with members of the household. At times, visits may be unannounced. It is wise to maintain a tidy, secure space to prove your home is suitable for a child.
Count on a Pasco County Family Law Attorney to Guide You in Dealing with the GAL
To learn more about working with a guardian ad litem, please call 352-567-0055 or go online to reach The Law Office of Laurie R. Chane. We can set up a consultation to learn more about your case and explain application of Florida family laws.