The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) program in Florida trains volunteers to serve as advocates for children. Whether the child has been abused, neglected or abandoned, the GAL program works as an impartial party to protect the child’s best interests. The guardian ad litem is commonly referred to as a “friend of the child.”
Pursuant to Section 61.403 of the Florida Statutes, a guardian ad litem’s powers and responsibilities include:
- Investigating the allegations contained in the pleadings which impact the child, which may include interviewing the child and witnesses
- Petitioning the court for an order permitting the guardian ad litem to inspect and copy records while relate to the child, the child’s parents or other custodial persons
- Requesting the court to order an expert examination (medical or other healthcare exams) of the child
- Assisting the court in obtaining impartial expert examinations
- Making written or oral recommendations to the court, including submitting a report that includes recommendations at least 20 days prior to the hearing
- Filing pleadings as necessary to further the guardian’s purpose
- Submitting the guardian’s recommendations to the court regarding any stipulation or agreement, whether incidental, temporary, or permanent, which affects the interest or welfare of the minor child, within 10 days after the date such stipulation or agreement is served upon the guardian ad litem.
It should be noted that the rights of a non-attorney guardian ad litem do not include the right to practice law. Additionally, a guardian ad litem is usually paid by the parties, unless the parents have limited income or the guardian agrees to serve for free.