When parents in a Florida family law matter cannot agree on timesharing or parenting time, the Court has the authority to either order that a social investigation and study be performed, or that a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) be appointed, to assist the Court with the contested timesharing issue or the contested parenting time issue.
While many people think of a GAL in the context of children with “at-risk” backgrounds, a GAL may also be appointed in family law matters, even where the children are not “at-risk.” But if well-founded allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect are made by one party against the other, then the Court must appoint a GAL in a family law case, per Section 61.401, Florida Statutes.
In a contested timesharing or custody case, the Court may feel it prudent to obtain the recommendations of a person who can conduct an out-of-court investigation. In such cases the Court will often appoint a social study investigator or a GAL. The attorneys in the case will often agree upon the appointment of a social study investigator or a GAL, who will be appointed to fill that role, and how the expenses associated with the appointment will be paid.
A social study investigation is authorized by Section 61.20, Florida Statutes. The persons authorized by the statute to conduct the investigation are: qualified staff of the Court; a child placing agency; a psychologist; a clinical social worker, marriage and family therapist, or mental health counselor. A GAL may be any person: certified by the Guardian Ad Litem Program; certified by a not-for-profit legal aid organization; or an attorney who is a member in good standing of The Florida Bar.
The differences and similarities between having a social study investigator and a GAL appointed in the case are:
When you have questions relating to parenting time or timesharing or any other family law matters in Jacksonville, Florida, be sure to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.