Florida Guardian Ad Litem And Your Custody Case
A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is appointed by a Florida court to investigate and evaluate family disputes to help protect a child’s best interests. Florida GALs act on behalf of the child and are considered “next friend of the child.”
GALs serve a critical role in helping the court resolve contentious and high conflict family matters involving children. The GAL does not work on behalf of either party to the dispute and is a neutral party to the case with a singular goal of helping the Florida court determine the best interest of the child. A guardian ad litem is NOT a child’s ‘lawyer’ or ‘advocate’. In family law matters, other than dependency actions, a GAL is an experienced family law attorney.
A Guardian Ad Litem will conduct interviews with both parents usually at their home, directly interview the children subject to the case, request the Florida court to order independent evaluations by healthcare or mental health professionals and provide recommendations to the court.
In making their recommendations, the GAL uses the factors outlined in section 61.13, Florida Statutes to determine the best interest of the child. These factors include, but are not limited to,
- The stability of the child and the need to maintain stability
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community record of the child
- The reasonable preference of the child
- The involvement of each parent in the day-to-day activities of the child
- The developmental stages and needs of the child