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What is the purpose of a Guardian ad Litem?

Divorces can turn into a battleground with money, property and children caught in the crossfire. However, your child is not the same as a marital asset. The divorce process unquestionably impacts the core of their life.

During this highly emotional and legally complex time, children need a responsible third party to look after their best interests. This person is also known as a Guardian ad Litem. In Florida, this person gathers information in order to make recommendations to the court as to what is in the child's best interests.

Courts commonly appoint a Guardian ad Litem in child custody and divorce cases. This person does not legally represent the child like a lawyer, although attorneys can serve as a Guardian ad Litem. Instead, they will seek court approval to access medical or psychological records. They may also request evaluations of the parents or child to detect mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence and other issues that could affect the child.

After conducting interviews, reviewing records and getting a clear sense of the situation, the Guardian ad Litem will create a document of their findings and recommendations. This document may influence the court's decision about custody, visitation or child support.

This recommendation is not the final decision, however. You have the chance to dispute the findings or bring up an issue that they may have overlooked in their investigation. Florida law states that you should receive a copy of the document 20 days before the court hearing. You should file any dissent as soon as you can after obtaining the copy.

The Guardian ad Litem is neither the enemy nor advocate of the divorcing spouses. Their sole purpose is to figure out the best course of action for the child. In fact, they may protect your child from a dangerous situation that you might not have even realized.

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