What is the Florida Guardian ad Litem Office?
When a child is in the dependency court system due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment, the judge stands in the parent’s shoes and must protect the child. When a judge appoints the Florida Guardian ad Litem Office, a multi-disciplinary team is assigned that includes a trained volunteer, an attorney, and a certified child advocate manager. The team approach is a nationally recognized best practice to represent a child’s best interests, including legal interests. The judge makes decisions for the child based on the information provided. The team provides the judge with the information needed and what the child wants to decide what is in the child’s best interests.
The Guardian ad Litem Office has over 200 attorneys on staff.
What does the child receive when a judge appoints Florida Guardian ad Litem to them?
Support and understanding from a trained volunteer who represents only one or two children at a time.
Judicial decision-making that is informed by comprehensive reports and recommendations throughout the case to make the best possible child-centered decision.
Independent advocacy from a multi-disciplinary team that collects information about the child’s family, situation, needs, and wants.
Stability, because a Guardian ad Litem often serves as the safe and stable adult throughout the child’s case.
Community support and resources through public-private partnerships.
Do I have the qualifications needed to volunteer?
If you are objective and non-judgmental and can interact with people of various educational, economic, and ethnic backgrounds, you will be an effective Guardian ad Litem volunteer.
There is no degree requirement; all training is provided for free.
Do I need to be an attorney to be a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem?
How much time must I commit as a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem?
What are the responsibilities of a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem?
What is "Best Interest"?
What is the difference between an Attorney ad Litem and a Guardian ad Litem Attorney?
An Attorney ad Litem, also known as client-direct, child-directed, or an Attorney for Kids, cannot provide Best Interest Representation or break confidentiality with a child even in times of danger. The Attorney ad Litem can only tell the judge what the child wants, their state interest. The attorney must maintain confidentiality with the child and advocate for only what the child wants. This leaves the child responsible, regardless of age, for making decisions based on their safety and welfare. The Florida Bar does not provide an exception for disclosing attorney-client information to anyone to prevent harm to a child.
In Florida, the law does not allow an Attorney ad Litem to represent the child’s best interests; only a Guardian ad Litem Attorney can.