Should I Use A Guardian Ad Litem In My Florida Divorce?
When divorcing parents disagree fundamentally about a child custody issues a guardian ad litem can help.
The disagreement can be about just about anything. Daycare or having a family member babysit? The Ferber method or an endless supply of cuddles? Public school or religious private school? Summer camp or academic summer program? What are your rules about curfew, screen time, and junk food? Which words are off limits?
Raising children involves many choices on which you and your spouse must reach an agreement, and that is hard enough to do when you and your spouse are life partners and get along well. It is even harder when you are divorced. If you and your ex-spouse have a parenting plan for your children, the court sometimes casts the deciding vote about a child’s best interest; this happens even more frequently while the divorce is in progress. An Orlando divorce lawyer can help you stop the court from overriding your parenting decisions.
Florida’s Guardian ad Litem Program and Contentious Divorce Cases
When you hear the phrase “guardian ad litem,” you might first think of the foster care system, but the court can also appoint a guardian ad litem in divorce cases. In Florida, the guardian ad litem is a volunteer, whose job is to represent the child’s best interests in the court case. It is kind of like the child having his or her own lawyer, except that most guardian ad litem volunteers are not lawyers. The same guardian ad litem will work with you throughout your divorce case unless you or your estranged spouse requests to change the guardian ad litem assigned to your case.
At least in theory, the guardian ad litem is neutral; he or she is not a party in the case. He or she will make brief visits to your child when the child is with you, with your ex-spouse, and at school. If the child is old enough, the guardian ad litem may have one-on-one conversations with your child. The guardian ad litem must submit a report to the court, containing his or her observations about the child, before the parents’ court appearances related to the divorce or child custody case. The judge uses this report as a basis for determining the child’s best interests.
Having a guardian ad litem appointed to your case can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, if your ex is failing to abide by the parenting plan, making unreasonable requests, or otherwise being impossible, the guardian ad litem is an objective observer who can report this to the court. On the other hand, having the guardian litem report on how much junk food you allow your children to eat or whether you hold your significant other’s hand in your children’s presence can feel like there is another court-appointed busybody involved in your relationship with your child. If you think that the guardian ad litem’s report is inaccurate or unfair, your lawyer can help you persuade the court of this.
Contact Sean Smallwood About Divorce Cases
A divorce lawyer can help you stand up for your rights as a parent in the midst of a contentious divorce. Contact Sean Smallwood in Orlando, Florida for a consultation.
Sean Smallwood, P.A.