Guardian ad Litem
Mr. Melendez began his interest in the law in 1999 as a Guardian ad Litem by advocating for children in the courtroom—children who were the victims of abuse and neglect by their parents or legal guardians.
Today, after earning his law degree and many years of experience in family law, Mr. Melendez continues to serve as a child advocate in the role of a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem or GAL.
The Role of Guardian ad Litem
A Guardian ad Litem when appointed shall act as next friend for the child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate but shall act in the child’s best interest. Florida state statute 61.403
In this role, Mr. Melendez meets with the children, all interested parties as well as those who have the most contact with the children. After gathering as much information as possible about the needs of the individuals involved, particularly the children, he develops a detailed report, complete with recommendations, which is ultimately submitted to the Court. The goal of the Guardian Ad Litem role is to assist the court in making the best decision to serve the interests of the children.
The order appointing a GAL can be made after request of either party, by agreement of the parties or by motion to the court by either or both of the parties’ attorneys.
As a Guardian ad Litem, Mr. Melendez becomes a person that children can trust. He helps children who have been victimized by abuse, neglect, and abandonment find their voice in the courtroom and the community.
The Best Interests of the Child
When it comes to the “best interests of the child,” there are many factors that the Florida Statutes take into consideration. Factors considered include but are not limited to:
- The demonstrated ability for each parent to have a close parent-child relationship, to honor time-sharing schedules, be reasonable when changes are required and, in essence, work together for the sake of the child.
- The “geographic viability” of the parenting plan, i.e. how far must school-age children travel for school and visitation?
- The developmental states and needs of the child and the demonstrated ability of each parent to meet those needs.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after litigation, including the extent that parental responsibilities may be delegated to third parties.
- The moral fitness, mental and physical health of the parents.
- Evidence of any type of abuse or abandonment.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding such abuse or abandonment.
Responsibilities of the Guardian ad Litem
As a Guardian ad Litem, Mr. Melendez has the following responsibilities in the advancement of the best interests of the children he represents.
- Investigation of allegations affecting the child. As part of this he may interview the child, witnesses or any other person having information concerning the welfare of the child.
- The GAL may petition the court for an order to inspect and copy records and documents which relate to the child or the child’s parents. These documents could be from a person, agency, or an organization i.e. a dentist, a hospital, a psychologist etc.
- The GAL may request the court for expert examinations of the child, parents or other interested parties. These examinations may be medical or psychological in nature.
- The GAL may help the court obtain impartial expert evaluations.
- The GAL may address the court and make written or oral recommendations to the court.
Contact the Donovan Melendez Law Office in Tampa Bay for Help
Mr. Melendez has years of Guardian ad Litem experience. If you are interested in learning how we work to achieve the best interests of children, reach out to us at 813-280-0181.