Our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators at Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc. have conducted mediations where the input of a Guardian ad Litem would have been beneficial in helping the parties draft a custody arrangement and time-sharing schedule that was in the best interest of the parties’ minor children.
However, most parties don’t understand what a Guardian ad Litem can do during the pendency of a divorce or paternity case. In highly contested cases one or both parties often refuse to take into consideration what is the best interest of their child or children.
Florida Statute § 61.403 provides in part that “A guardian ad litem shall have the powers, privileges, and responsibilities to the extent necessary to advance the best interest of the child.”
In very general terms, a Guardian ad Litem is usually appointed by a Florida Family Law Judge in cases where there is a significant amount of conflict between the parties with respect issues regarding their children as well as established concerns about the children’s well-being.
In a divorce case, a “Guardian ad Litem” can be appointed upon the request of either party or by the Judge on his or her own initiative. The main role of the Guardian ad Litem is to investigate the facts of the case and report back to the Judge, a Guardian ad Litem will talk with both parties, the child or children and any and other witness who may have pertinent facts as they relate to the best interest of the child. Since a Guardian ad Litem is required to act in the child’s best interest and report back to the Court; § 61.403 allows the Guardian to be able to obtain access to the parties medical and other records, as well as petition the court to order evaluations for both the children and the parents.
Although there is not a Judge present during mediation, our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators believe that with both parties having the report of a Guardian ad Litem available will help promote settlement when it comes to drafting a Parenting Plan. In family law cases the Guardian ad Litem is often a Florida licensed attorney which allows him or her to understand the legal nuance of a custody dispute – especially one that is very contentious. Since mediation is very informal, our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators at Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc. have the ability to contact the Guardian ad Litem during a mediation if questions or concerns arise.
Clearly, a Guardian ad Litem may play a significant role in a disputed custody battle.
But a Guardian ad Litem is not always necessary because every Florida divorce case and custody dispute is different due to that the dynamics of how each “family” is dependent on the personality characteristics of not only both parents, but also of the child or children. The decision to have a Guardian ad Litem appointed should not be taken lightly because just like everything else in family law cases, a Guardian ad Litem can be quite expensive.