The appointment of a guardian ad litem should be considered if you are in the midst of a custody or family law matter, whether it is within a divorce, modification or paternity case, and there are allegations of drug use, neglect, unsafe living conditions, alcohol use or generally bad parenting. Guardian Ad Litems (GALS) are professional who job it is to investigate the facts and circumstances of a case and to report to the Court on what they perceive would be in the best interest of the child. The recommendation of the GAL is not binding upon the Court, but most judges weigh very heavily a GAL's opinion.
The requirements to become a guardian ad litem are laid out in Florida Statute 61.402. The person must either be certified by the GAL Program or a not-for-profit legal aid organization or must be an attorney. In family law cases, such as divorce, most often guardian ad litem's are lawyers. Finding a lawyer with a mental health or therapy background is ideal as those lawyers have specific training in spotting and recognizing family issues and have training in human behavior.
The guardian ad litem gather's information by talking to family and friends of the parents, speaking with therapist, teachers and counselors and by requesting the court to order testing, such as drug testing or evaluations such as substance abuse evaluations. The guardian ad litem will visit the home of the child or other relatives. In general, the GAL has the ability to look into a family's life in a way that the Court typically cannot.
The use of a guardian is ideal in a situation where you believe your child is better off in your home and feel that a neutral person who looked into your family's life would agree.
The downsides of using a guardian is that they report what they believe is in the best interest of a child, even if that conflicts with what you want. Also, in family law cases guardians typically cost a minimum of $2000 which is typically shared by the parties.