Welcome to the Florida Family Lawyer Blog

The posts in this blog focus on Florida family law issues including divorce , child custody/time-sharing , child support , mediation , domestic violence , parenting coordination , parenting rights of same-sex couples , and other family law topics. The posts discuss these topics under Florida law, and also focus on the family law local rules in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

I hope the information here is helpful for you.

Articles Posted in Dependency Cases

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In a divorce or other family law case, if the Judge finds that it is in the best interests of the minor child(ren) in the case, the Judge can appoint a “Guardian ad Litem”. Either party to the case can request that the Judge appoint a Guardian ad Litem, or your Judge on his or her own initiative can make the appointment. The literal meaning of the phrase “Guardian ad Litem” is guardian for the lawsuit, or guardian for the purposes of the legal action only.

A primary role of the Guardian ad Litem is to investigate the facts of the case for the Judge and report back to the Court – to talk with both parents, the child(ren) and other important witnesses in the case. The types of case where Guardian ad Litems are appointed are cases where there is significant conflict between the parties regarding children’s issues and/or significant concerns regarding the well-being of the children. The Guardian ad Litem’s job is to act in the best interests of the child(ren) in reporting back to the Judge and making recommendations. The Guardian can obtain access to medical and other records, can request the court to order evaluations for the children or the parents, and can also assist with finding experts for examinations or evaluations.

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There have been reports in the news lately about the placement of 14 year old Modern Family actress Ariel Winters with her sister, because of emotional abuse by the child’s mother. The process for Dependency cases in Florida, is very similar to the events described in the news reports regarding Ariel Winters.

Florida Dependency cases often begin with a call to law enforcement or to the Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline – 1-800-962-2873 (but can also start with an action filed in Dependency Court). The case is then investigated by a child protective investigator – in Broward County, child abuse investigations are handled by specially trained investigators in the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO). In Broward County (and I believe there is a similar process in some other counties), if there is a domestic violence injunction and there are children in the home, a BSO investigator will make contact with the parents to look into how things are in the home. Under Florida law, a child’s exposure to domestic violence constitutes child abuse. If the investigating agency finds that there is abuse, neglect or abandonment or “imminent danger of illness or injury as a result of abuse, neglect, or abandonment”, a child can be removed from the parent’s or guardian’s home and placed with another parent or relative, or in a temporary “shelter” placement in a foster home; and the case then proceeds forward in court and through the Department of Children and Family Services. The Florida Statutes regarding child abuse investigations and cases are in Florida Statutes, Chapter 39. One issue that has been litigated in multiple jurisdictions, is that if a spouse or other partner is the victim of domestic violence, the appropriate course of action is to provide services and assistance, versus jumping to removal of the child from the victim rather than providing assistance.

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