Parents are their children’s natural guardians and, therefore, have the authority to act on behalf of their children. However, in some scenarios, children may be found without parents, or may have parents who are unable or unwilling to care for them. In such instances, a legal guardian is appointed to care for the child until he or she reaches the age of majority and is able to care for himself or herself.
In contrast, a guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court to represent a child’s interests in a specific legal matter, such as when a minor receives an inheritance or award from a lawsuit or insurance policy exceeding $15,000. While not required by law, in some (more unruly) divorce cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a child’s best interests. The guardian ad litem considers what is the most beneficial arrangement for rearing the child.
Other circumstances where it is common for a court to appoint a legal guardian for a minor include when the parents are:
- Incapacitated or suffering from mental disabilities
- Grossly irresponsible to the point where they can hardly take care of themselves, let alone a child (e.g. drug users or alcoholics)
While his or her role is limited, a guardian ad litem may be able to provide the moral support and discernment to choose the best means of care for a child. If you have questions regarding guardianship for your child, speak with a knowledgeable Florida attorney.