If you are in a divorce or paternity matter, there is nothing more important than protecting your child. As difficult as the case may may be on your emotional and financial health, it is more so for your child. Fortunately, you are not alone. Florida courts make available to parents additional professionals to assist in disputes over custody, visitation (‘timesharing’) and parental disputes involving the child. As hard as they work to ensure that each family receives the time and attention required, judges cannot step off the bench to evaluate the circumstances of each child and to fashion a custody and timesharing plan that perfectly suits each family. There is help for the courts and parents, however, in having the available services of a Parent Coordinators and Guardian ad Litem. (The term ‘Guardian ad Litem’ simply means ‘Guardian during the Litigation’.)
Both Parent Coordinators and Guardians ad Litem are governed by appropriate Florida statutes and Rules. These professionals are specifically trained and qualified by Florida law to assist parents. A Parent Coordinator works with parents in private conferences to create workable and fair timesharing schedules to ensure that both parents have access to the child during and after the conclusion of the case. These schedules, referred to as ‘Parenting Plans’, are written documents signed by both parents and presented to the court for approval. If the parents need help to create, modify or enforce a Parenting Plan, the court may refer the parents to a Parent Coordinator, or the parents themselves may agree to retain one on their own. Don’t be shy about asking for help.
Guardians ad Litem serve as the ‘eyes-and-ears’ of the court and the voice for a child in a contested custody or timesharing case. The Guardian will investigate the home environment of the child, interview the child and those important in the life of the child (parents, teachers, neighbors, etc.) and prepare a written report with recommendation to the court. After reviewing the report, the court will listen to the parents and other witnesses and determine what is in the best interest of the child. Guardians are used in initial custody cases, modification of custody cases and even parental relocation matters where one parent wants to relocate out-of-town with the child.
If you and your child are involved in a custody, timesharing, visitation or relocation matter, be aware that the services of a qualified Parent Coordinator or Guardian ad Litem may assist you in helping your child. In addition to handling family law cases for over thirty years, I am pleased to be available to serve you as a qualified Parent Coordinator and qualified Guardian ad Litem.