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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem is appointed by the court to protect the rights and advocate the best interests of a child involved in a court proceeding. The Guardian ad Litem makes independent recommendations to the court by focusing on the needs of each child. The Guardian ad Litem advocates for the best interests of the child they represent.

What are the different ways I can volunteer for the Guardian ad Litem Program?
Attorneys interested in volunteering for the GAL Program have options:

  • Attorneys can represent the child’s best interests as the guardian ad litem, with support from a case coordinator and a program attorney.
  • Attorneys can utilize their area of expertise to assist the GAL Program, including probate, special education, guardianship, immigration, administrative law and appeals.
  • Attorneys can represent the child in a regular attorney-client relationship as the attorney ad litem (AAL).

What is Fostering Independence?

Fostering Independence is the name of the project that pairs pro bono attorneys with teens in foster care to help them obtain the services they will need to prepare for adulthood. Attorneys volunteering through Fostering Independence will represent the teen’s best interests as the guardian ad litem after completing an 8-hour training. This specialized training consists of 5 DVDs and Power Point presentation that are available for viewing on the Guardian ad Litem website.

By completing the 8 hour training and providing Guardian ad Litem representation, attorneys will receive 8 CLE credits, including 1 ethics credit and will fulfill the Florida Bar’s pro bono requirement.

What kind of support will I have if I become a GAL?

You will be part of a GAL team, which includes a case coordinator and a program attorney. The team’s program attorney will provide you with legal guidance as needed and will represent you at evidentiary hearings. The case coordinator will work with you to develop recommendations, assist you in preparing reports to the court and advise you regarding community resources and program policies and procedures.

How much time will I need to commit if I become a GAL?

While cases vary in complexity, most cases will require approximately 4-6 hours per month, with a little more time in the beginning. All time spent on GAL cases should be reported annually as it fulfills the Florida Bar’s pro bono requirement.

What are the responsibilities of a GAL?
Some of the responsibilities of a GAL are:

  • Visit the child and keep the child informed about the court proceedings;
  • Gather and assess independent information on a consistent basis about the child in order to recommend a resolution that is in the child's best interest;
  • Review records;
  • Interview appropriate parties involved in the case, including the child;
  • Determine whether a permanency plan has been created for the child in accordance with federal and state laws and whether appropriate services are being provided to the child and family;
  • Submit a signed written report with recommendations to the court on what placement, visitation plan, services, and permanency plan are in the best interest of the child;
  • Attend and participate in court hearings and other related meetings to advocate for a permanency plan, which serves the child's best interest;
  • Maintain complete records about the case, including appointments scheduled, interviews held, and information gathered about the child and the child's life circumstances.

How will my representation as a GAL be different than representation of other clients?

The primary difference will be that you will not owe a duty of confidentiality to the child and you will be advocating for what you believe is in the child’s best interests, rather than what the child wants. Otherwise, you will still be required to comply with the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.

How do I become a Guardian ad Litem as part of the Fostering Independence Project?

You must fill out an application and send it to your local program, complete a screening interview and be a member in good standing with the Florida Bar. Once these items along with the 8-hour training have been completed, you are ready to take your first case.

What is the role of the Guardian ad Litem?
The Guardian ad Litem carries out the following activities:

  • Investigation: Carries out an objective, systematic examination of the situation, including relevant history, environment, relationships, and needs of the child. The GAL interviews family, friends, neighbors and members of the child's school.
  • Facilitation: Identifies resources and services for the child and facilitates a collaborative relationship between all parties involved in the case, helping to create a situation in which the child's needs are met.
  • Advocacy: Advocates for the best interests of the child to the court and relevant agencies.
  • Monitoring: Keeps track of whether the orders of the court, as well as the plans of the Department of Children and Families, are carried out.

What are the additional benefits for volunteering?

The Florida Bar requires all attorneys to provide at least 20 hours of pro bono representation during the year. Guardian ad Litem representation can fulfill the pro bono requirement.  By completing the required training, pro bono attorneys will receive 8 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) credit, including 1 ethics credit (attorneys are required to complete 30 hours of CLEs every 3 years). 

Do I need to have Malpractice Insurance?

No, pro bono attorneys are covered for malpractice:

  • Under the Florida Volunteer Protection Act, section 768.1355, Florida Statutes, pro bono attorneys are covered by the State’s liability insurance for malpractice.
  • To be covered under the statute the pro bono attorney must act in good faith as an ordinary, reasonably prudent person would.
  • The statute does not protect an attorney’s wanton or willful misconduct.

How many of Florida's abused and neglected children need a Guardian ad Litem to advocate for their needs?

At any given time, over 42,500 children in Florida are in need of a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem.

How many children does the Guardian ad Litem Program represent?

As of May 2010, the Guardian ad Litem Program represented approximately 22,800 children.

How many people volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem?

As of May 2010, the Guardian ad Litem Program had 7,900 certified volunteers.

How do I become a Pro Bono Attorney and give a voice to Florida's abused and neglected children?

Fill out our application and send to your local circuit office.

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