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
Attorneys interested in volunteering for the GAL Program
- 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).
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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
- Monitoring Keeps track
of whether the orders of the court, as well as the plans
of the Department of Children and Families, are carried
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).
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.
At any given time, over 42,500 children in Florida
are in need of a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem.
As of May 2010, the Guardian ad Litem Program represented approximately 22,800 children.
As of May 2010, the Guardian ad Litem Program had 7,900 certified volunteers.
out our application and send to your local