What is the Florida Guardian ad Litem Office?
The Statewide Florida Guardian ad Litem Office is funded by the state. Per Florida State statute 39.822, a guardian ad litem shall be appointed by the court at the earliest possible time to represent the child in any child abuse, abandonment, or neglect judicial proceeding, whether civil or criminal.

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?
Representation of the child using the best interests standard.

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 concerned for the well-being of children and have a continuing commitment to advocate for a child until a safe and permanent home is obtained, you will be an effective Guardian ad Litem 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?
You do not need to be an attorney to be a Guardian ad Litem volunteer. Anyone with common sense, compassion, and dedication to children can volunteer.
How much time must I commit as a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem?
A Guardian ad Litem must complete 30 hours of certification training and 12 hours annually of recertification training. An average of 5-10 hours per month working on your case (some cases involve more time and some less time).
What are the responsibilities of a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem?
Guardian ad Litem volunteers bring a community-based, common-sense perspective to cases. They visit children regularly to understand their circumstances, wishes, and needs and explain the process so they can understand. Volunteers are supported and supervised by certified Child Advocate Managers who help them navigate the complex dependency system. In addition, Guardian ad Litem Attorneys provide essential legal counsel, attend hearings and depositions, negotiate outside the courtroom, and take on appeals.
What is "Best Interest"?
The “stated interest” is what the child says they want (for example, to stay at home, to stay at a foster home), and the “best interest” is what is believed to be the best situation for the child.
What is the difference between an Attorney ad Litem and a Guardian ad Litem Attorney?
States have the responsibility to protect vulnerable children, called parens patriae. To take care of this responsibility, dependency judges are not simply referees. They stand in the parent’s shoes; in legal terms, it is called in loco parentis. The judge can only decide the safety and welfare of a child based on the information the judge receives. Guardian ad Litem provides all information to the judge so that the judge can make the best decision.

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.

What types of cases require a Guardian ad Litem?
Whether civil or criminal, child abuse, abandonment, or neglect judicial proceeding involving a child.
How many children does the Guardian ad Litem Office represent?
In 2021, The Florida Guardian ad Litem Office represented more than 37,000 children.
How many people volunteer with the Florida Guardian ad Litem Office?
In 2021, more than 13,000 people volunteered.
How do I learn more about becoming a volunteer and giving a voice to Florida's abused and neglected children?
Click Here, to fill out a short form, and someone from the Florida Guardian ad Litem Office will call to provide you with more information and answer your questions.
What do volunteers have to say about the experience of being a Guardian ad Litem?
Hear about the experience of serving Florida’s abused and neglected children from actual volunteers. Visit the Our Stories page to see videos of actual volunteers and children whose lives have been changed.
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