What Is A Guardian Ad Litem and Why Would I Need One for My Family Law Case?
When a family law case involves child custody issues it is not uncommon for the case to consist of a great deal of “he said, she said”. This can make it very hard for Orlando, FL family lawyers and the Courts to determine whose version of the events is true especially when both mom and dad are giving completely opposite versions of events in the case.
In certain cases, the lawyers can enlist the assistance of a third party neutral attorney to act as a Guardian Ad Litem. A Guardian ad Litem is appointed to the case by the judge to represent the child’s best interests and conducts an in-depth investigation to that end. At the end of the Guardian’s investigation, they will prepare a detailed report and recommendation to be filed with the Court that makes recommendations to the family court judge as to what time-sharing schedule the court should order.
The Only Way A Family Lawyer Can Get Around the Child Hearsay Rule
A guardian can be especially useful in cases where there are witnesses or when the kids are old enough and mature enough to provide input on things that they have witnessed. This is because there are rules against child hearsay which preclude a parent from testifying about anything that the child “told” them.
Not being able to testify about anything that the kids have said can be a big hindrance in cases where one of the parents in engaging in dangerous behaviors.
When using the services of a Guardian ad Litem, however, the guardian is able to use hearsay statements from the kids in their reports, testimony, and in their recommendations even though those statements would otherwise not be admissible in court.
For this reason, requesting the appointment of a guardian can be a very valuable strategic tool for family law attorneys to use in litigation in order to get evidence in front of the judge that otherwise would never be heard by the court.
With all of these benefits, why doesn’t every family court litigant use a guardian? There is one drawback to using a Guardian ad Litem that keeps most people from using them and that is the additional fee that comes with the guardian.
Because in most jurisdictions guardians are lawyers who must be paid for their time they come with a price tag that averages at $2,500 for their initial retainer. If the case goes to trial, then there will usually be an additional retainer needed to cover trial prep and testimony.
For any parent who can afford it the use of a guardian can be well worth the investment in many cases.
Sean Smallwood is an Orlando divorce attorney for the law firm Sean Smallwood, Orlando Divorce & Family Law P.A. where he represents clients in all areas of family law and divorce. 100% of the practice is devoted to family law. As an attorney in Orlando, he has helped many families with a wide variety of family law cases including Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and many other issues.