Authority of Guardian ad Litem
Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Matthew D. Martin has received questions about the authority of Guardian Ad Litem in Florida dissolution of marriage cases involving minor children. Florida Statue 61.401 provides that a Guardian Ad Litem act as a “next friend of the child” and investigate or evaluate the circumstances in the child’s life. The Guardian Ad Litem does not act as an attorney or advocate for the child, but there authority can be very broad. The powers and authority to the Guardian Ad Litem to conduct their investigation or evaluation is provided for in Florida Statue 61.403. It should be noted, however that the Court may place conditions or limitations on the Guardian Ad Litem when they are conducting their investigation, so the order of appointment should always be consulted.
How does the Guardian ad Litem get Information?
Often times during the Courts appointment, the Order appointing the guardian will direct third parties such as hospitals, medical doctors, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrist to release information which relate to the minor child or the minor child’s parents, thus the scope of the authority of guardian ad litem is established usually by the order of appointment. This means that a Guardian Ad Litem can have substantial authority to interview those individuals who the parties and children interact with.
The Guardian Ad Litem may also be afforded the opportunity to order expert evaluations of the child, the parents, or the other interested parties by mental health professionals. Florida Statue 61. 403 provides that notice must be afforded to a litigant before such an order is entered granting the Florida Guardian Ad Litem the authority to obtain such information or compelling a party to attend a medical or mental health evaluation.
Guardian ad Litem Report
Florida Guardian Ad Litems have the power to report their investigative findings to the Court, which can include a statement of the wishes of the child. A copy of the Guardian Ad Litems report should be provided to the parties in the case. The Guardian Ad Litem also possesses the power and authority to file pleadings or otherwise participate in the dissolution of marriage in which they were appointed to act as a “next friend of the child”, including participating in depositions, hearings and other matters involving litigation.
Many cases involving Guardian Ad Litems do not proceed before the Court for a decision on timesharing or parental responsibility because the parties to the case are able to reach an agreement. In cases such as these, the authority of guardian ad litem is not oftentimes questioned, but instead the guardian is afforded the ability to review the agreement between the parties concerning the child and to make recommendations to the Court.
How Long Does the Guardian Get to Approve a Settlement?
Florida Statue 61.403 requires the Guardian Ad Litem to submit his/her recommendation to the Court within ten (10) days after they receive the agreement from the parties. Palm Beach County Divorce Attorney Matthew D. Martin has experience handling cases where a Guardian Ad Litem has been appointed to assess timesharing and parental responsibility. Martin Family Law offers free consultations in our Boca Raton Divorce Law Firm.