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What does a guardian ad litem do?

Custody issues are very rarely ever pleasant, but if you're in the middle of a heated dispute with your ex over an issue involving your children, you know just how stressful and scary it can be. When parents are at odds over what is best for their children, the courts will often appoint a guardian ad litem to protect the child's best interests throughout the court matter. Understanding just what a guardian ad litem is and what they do can help you navigate this challenging time.

While it may seem odd to have a third party involved in a custody dispute, the courts recognize that both parents and their attorneys are looking out for what each parent wants. While this very well may be in the best interests, it's common for divorced or divorcing parents to get caught up in their own issues with each other and lose sight of the main goal of coparenting their children as best they can. The guardian ad litem is involved strictly for the child and not either parent's agenda.

Even though they do not act as attorneys in custody cases, guardian ad litems have many of the same privileges, including being able to interview the parties involved, including the children, parents, other family members and teachers, requesting medical or mental health records on the children and requesting expert examinations. Guardian ad litems usually make reports to the courts on their findings and may give a recommendation on what court order would serve the best interests of the children moving forward.

Having someone else, who is in effect a complete stranger, deciding what is in the best interests of your children can be very difficult to deal with. If you have questions about how a guardian ad litem is appointed and what their duties and responsibilities are, a family law attorney can help.

Source: The Florida Senate, "61.403 Guardians ad litem; powers and authority," accessed Aug. 19, 2015

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