There are several types of cases that can benefit from the services of a GAL (Guardian Ad Litem). A GAL is an advocate for a child, and is required for sexual abuse cases in dependency court, and is usually provided by the State of Florida for the child victim. The GAL’s are usually volunteers, and in Orange County they are required to be attorneys. Criminal cases often have GAL’s for child victims of abuse as well, sexual or non-sexual. In Domestic cases (paternity, divorce, custody, modifications, and time-sharing issues) the appointment of a GAL is discretionary and the Judge may or may not grant a Motion to Appoint.
A GAL should not be confused with an AAL (Attorney Ad Litem). A GAL is a person who is the eyes and ears for the court and makes recommendations (after interviews of witnesses and review of documents) that are in the best interest of the minor child. An AAL is the attorney for the child and presents evidence to the court based on what the child wants, like a regular client. Often, the GAL and the AAL do not agree, because a child client may not always want what is best for them and the GAL is focused on what is best, not what the child necessarily wants… (i.e. a child victim sometimes wants to be reunified with the parent aggressor, which is not in the child’s best interest most times).
A GAL can share information that only the children know with a judge, which can be very useful in your case. Children should not/cannot testify against their parents, so the GAL gives them a voice in the courtroom. There are special circumstances when children are permitted to testify; however, it is usually not in their best interest.
If you are interested in having a GAL appointed in your case, you should discuss that with your attorney. Camy B. Schwam-Wilcox is an attorney, and also a GAL. You can learn more about the GAL process by contacting the law office of Schwam-Wilcox & Associates. In order to avoid a conflict, the office can discuss the GAL process with you, or answer brief questions via e-mail. We are unable to discuss specifics about the case itself, in order to avoid a future conflict. If you want to hire an attorney to assist you with the GAL process you can contact the firm to schedule your consult.