Parents going through a divorce may have questions about the child custody process. It is common for this process to include a guardian ad litem, but parents may not understand their role.
In Florida, a guardian ad litem is a person who represents the child’s best interests in the proceeding. The court calls this person a next friend of the child, meaning that that he or she has the powers, privileges and responsibilities to advance the child’s interests.
Investigations and inspections
The guardian ad litem is tasked with investigating any allegations related to the child’s well-being. After providing the relevant parties with proper notice, he or she is given authority by the court to interview the child, witnesses and others who have information about the child’s welfare.
He or she can also petition the court to inspect certain records containing information about the child, the child’s parents and other household members. These may include medical records. However, each party will be given notice and the opportunity to attend a hearing before the court orders the release of the records.
The guardian ad litem may make written and oral recommendations to the court concerning the child’s welfare, including statements about the child’s wishes. He or she is entitled to be present at all depositions, hearings and other proceedings and must be given reasonable notice before the court or the parties take any action affecting the child.
If parents have additional questions about the role of a guardian ad litem or need assistance with the child custody process, there is help available.