Florida Court Discusses Fees for Guardians Ad Litem

In family law matters involving minor children, the Florida courts’ driving concern is what is in the children’s best interest. As such, in cases in which the parents’ ability to care for their children in a safe and healthy environment is called into question, a court may find it necessary to appoint a guardian ad litem. Which party is responsible for paying for such guardians depends on numerous factors, as discussed in a recent Florida opinion. If you have questions regarding how you can protect your parental rights, it is smart to meet with a Miami child custody attorney at your earliest convenience.

Case Setting

It is alleged that the mother and father, who have two minor children, divorced in Virginia in 2011. In 2020, the mother filed petitions for injunction for protection against domestic violence with children on behalf of the minor children. The trial court appointed a guardian ad litem for the children in the domestic violence cases and ordered the father to pay 100% of the Guardian’s fees. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the mother’s petitions but appointed the Guardian for further intervention.

It is reported that various motions were filed thereafter, with the trial court significantly reducing the mother’s timesharing with the children, particularly the son, due to ongoing disputes between the parties. In October 2021, the father filed a motion seeking to reallocate responsibility for the Guardian’s fees, alleging that the mother had the ability to contribute to the cost as indicated by her hiring an attorney. Subsequently, the trial court granted the father’s motion, ordering the mother to pay 50% of the Guardian’s fees. The mother appealed.

Fees for Guardians Ad Litem

On appeal, the mother argued that the trial court abused its discretion by imputing income to her and ordering her to pay 50% of the Guardian’s fees without adequate findings on her ability to pay. After reviewing the trial court’s decision, the court ultimately agreed with the mother. Specifically, the court noted that the trial court failed to specify the amount of income imputed to the mother and inadequately addressed her financial situation.

Additionally, the court found that the trial court’s order lacked sufficient findings regarding financial assistance received by the mother from her brother and boyfriend, which could impact her ability to pay. The court also emphasized the need for detailed findings in such matters.

As such, the court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, instructing the court to make specific findings on income imputation and financial assistance received by the mother and to reconsider fee allocation accordingly.

Talk to a Dedicated Miami Attorney

Child custody cases can be contentious, especially when parents disagree about one another’s suitability to raise children. If you need help with a custody dispute, it is smart to confer with an attorney about your options. The dedicated Miami child custody lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can inform you of your rights and help you to seek your desired outcome. You can contact us at 800-596-0579 or use the form online to arrange a conference.