When are Guardian ad Litems Used in Child Custody Cases in Florida?
In Florida, litigants in a child custody case can request an appointment of a Guardian ad Litem or (GAL) by the courts. Frequently utilized in high conflict child custody cases, a judge has the power to approve the appointment of a GAL and they may do so at the expense of one or both of the parties involved. The GAL can make several recommendations to the court and can include:
- Which parent the children should live with
- Timesharing schedules and parenting plans for each parent
- Suggestions for supervised timesharing or visitation
- Decision making powers for the children for each parent
- Make requirements of both or one parent prior to being granted timesharing/visitation
GALs offer a great deal of value to a variety of child custody matters, however, they may not be indicated in all custody cases. Therefore, it is in your best interest to discuss your case and your options with an experienced Family Law Attorney prior to requesting an appointment of a GAL with the courts.
A Guardian ad Litem’s focus is to advocate for the best interests of the child(ren). They are given powers to investigate a variety of areas that are specific to the children and are required to issue a report to the courts. Per Florida law, a guardian ad litem shall have the powers, privileges, and responsibilities to the extent necessary to advance the child’s best interests.
Source: Florida Statute 61.403
When can a GAL be Helpful?
As previously stated, there are times when asking the courts for a GAL may not be appropriate or necessary. However, in some higher conflict child custody matters, a GAL can offer the children the advocacy they deserve. Their reporting can help the courts decide how to rule in a variety of cases, some of which are as follows:
Parental Relocation with a Minor Child – If one parent requests to relocate with the minor children and the other objects, a GAL can be appointed as a helpful advocate for the best interests of the children. Either parent can ask for a GAL appointment in a parental relocation with a minor child case.
Parental Alienation – If a parent is being accused of parental alienation, the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem can be given powers to investigate the allegations and facts to help the courts make decisions that are in the best interest of the children.
Allegations of Domestic Violence, Neglect, Abuse
When allegations of domestic violence are present, the first step is to ensure the safety of yourself and your children. A judge will normally appoint a GAL when he or she has reason to believe the child has been threatened, neglected or hurt.
What can go Wrong when a GAL is Appointed?
Although Guardian ad Litems (GALs) exist to represent the best interests of the children, we know that their recommendations are highly considered by the courts. Keep in mind that the courts are not bound by the GAL’s reports and recommendations, however, their investigation and reporting will weigh heavily on the judge’s decision and will effect the outcome of the case.
If a GAL is Appointed Should I Hire a Tampa Child Custody Lawyer?
Being represented by an experienced Tampa child custody litigation attorney when a GAL has been appointed is highly beneficial. This ensures that your parental rights are being protected and to ensure that the GAL is following Florida Law, investigating without bias and in the best interest of the children. In short, your child custody lawyer must be experienced in cases that involve GALS in high conflict child custody cases.
GALS, Parenting Coordinators and Evaluators can all be very useful and effective participants in high conflict child custody cases. Attorney Nilo J Sanchez & Associates has decades of experience. When you need to be represented in high conflict child custody matter, call 813-879-4600.
Nilo J Sanchez & Associates are Family Law & Child Custody Attorneys located in Tampa, FL. If you are experiencing a high conflict child custody case and you need a top rated Tampa Bay Family Law Attorney to represent you, please contact us for a consultation or click the links below if your case is in Pinellas or Pasco County, FL.
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