Interview with Attorney Jeff Weissman on the Role of the Guardian Ad Litem in Family Court

Jeff Weissman is a partner at Gladstone & Weissman, P.A. The firm specializes in family and marital law, providing representation in areas including divorce, child custody, child support, and paternity cases. Mr. Weissman is also a Supreme Court Certified Guardian Ad Litem; in this position he makes recommendations for the best interests of children in family court proceedings.

What exactly is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Jeff Weissman: A Guardian Ad Litem is a person appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child. They are often appointed in cases of child abuse and neglect. They may also be appointed to look out for a child’s best interests during a custody dispute or adoption. In Florida, there are two types of Guardian Ad Litem. Some are volunteers from the community who receive extensive training and work primarily with abused and neglected children in the foster care system. Others are attorneys, who may work in the foster care system, or be appointed to serve in family law cases.

How does a Guardian Ad Litem advocate for children?

Jeff Weissman: A Guardian Ad Litem performs an independent investigation and talks to all of the parties involved in the case. For example, they may interview teachers, neighbors, and grandparents. They also monitor ongoing situations. Based on their investigations and monitoring, they make recommendations to the court that they believe are in the best interests of the child.

How does one determine what is in a child’s best interests?

Jeff Weissman: Partially based on training and partially on common sense. Typically, the investigation helps me uncover what is in a child’s best interests. I do ask the child what they want, but that does not necessarily mean I will recommend what he or she requests. Sometimes what a child wants and what is in his or her best interests are two different things. As a Guardian, I have a duty to report the child’s desires to the judge, but make my own recommendations that are independent from the minor, their parents, or other parties to the case.

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