What To Expect When A Guardian Ad Litem Is Appointed In A Florida Family Law Case
The practice of law is a field that encompasses numerous Latin terms, and one you may encounter in a Florida family law case is guardian ad litem (GAL). Taking these terms in turn may offer some insight on the concept:
A guardian is someone appointed by a court or otherwise empowered to act on behalf of an individual who does not have legal capacity, such as a child. The English translation for ad litem is “for the suit,” so this individual is someone who will be involved in litigation.
As such, a GAL is the person who serves the needs of a child in an official legal proceeding. A court will not always appoint one in a family law case, but the judge might do so when it is necessary to investigate and evaluate the best interests of the child. A Dade City family law attorney can provide personalized details, but some information on what a Florida GAL does is useful.
Common Cases Where a GAL is Appointed
The best interests of the child is a paramount consideration when it comes to almost any issue related to the care, support, and upbringing of a child. The court needs an unbiased, accurate assessment of the residential arrangements, health and well-being, education, activities, and many other aspects of the child’s life. Yet, it is not practical for the judge to conduct an investigation. The serves of a GAL are not free. They generally charge an hourly rate for their investigative work, court time and for any other work they perform in the case. The GAL fills this role to act as the eyes and ears of the court in many different family law cases, such as:
- Divorce cases when important decision making and parenting time, i.e., custody and visitation, are in dispute;
- Cases involving custody and visitation of a child born to unmarried or separated parents, including paternity matters;
- Proceedings involving a departure from the Florida child support statutory guidelines; and,
- Actions to enforce or modify an order for child custody, visitation, or support.
Tasks and Activities of the GAL
The GAL is an official of the court, with extensive authority to investigate the relevant issues in a family law case and report back to the court. With the focus on the child’s best interests, the GAL’s tasks may include:
- Reviewing the child’s records from school or daycare;
- Assessing medical records;
- Conducting interviews with the child, parents, siblings, and other relatives;
- Speaking to the child’s teachers, caregivers, and other influential individuals;
- Evaluating any reports from Child Protective Services and criminal background checks;
- Going over financial details and income for both parents;
- Assessment of any records related to family counseling or individual therapy; and,
- Coordination with parents for psychological evaluations, parental fitness assessments, and drug screenings.
A Florida Family Law Attorney Will Explain the GAL’s Role
For additional details on what to expect when a guardian ad litem is appointed in a family law case, please contact The Law Office of Laurie R. Chane at 352-567-0055 or via our website. We can schedule a consultation at our location in Dade City, FL. After reviewing your circumstances, a family lawyer can offer additional details about your case.