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Contested Florida Custody Case Addresses Fees for Guardian Ad Litem


In contested Florida custody cases, especially those involving allegations of domestic violence, the court will often see fit to appoint a guardian ad litem to the case. The guardian ad litem is an investigator who acts on behalf of the court to determine what is in the child’s best interests. However, these fine folks do not work for free. One or the other party must pay for their services or split the cost. In this case, the father filed a motion with the court to split the costs of the guardian ad litem with the mother after having initially been assigned 100% of the cost. The Tampa, FL divorce attorneys at Westchase Law, P.A. will discuss this case and how it was resolved by the court.

Background of the case 

In Levy v. Levy, the spouses originally divorced in Virginia in 2011 and later moved to Florida where their case was heard. In 2020, the mother filed domestic violence injunctions against the father on behalf of their two minor children. The Florida trial court appointed a guardian ad litem to the case and ordered the father to pay 100% of their fees. Ultimately, the trial court denied the mother’s domestic violence petitions, but the guardian ad litem remained on the case.

Several motions were filed after that decision. Ultimately, the trial court significantly reduced the mother’s timesharing with her son. The father filed a motion to reapportion the responsibility to pay for the guardian ad litem to the mother. He alleged that the mother now had the ability to pay for the guardian ad litem as evidenced by her representation by a new attorney. The trial court agreed with the father and assigned 50% of the responsibility to pay for the guardian ad litem to the mother. The mother then appealed the decision.

The mother argued that the trial court abused its discretion by falsely attributing income to her and ordering her to pay half of the guardian ad litem’s fees without having first determined whether or not she could pay. The appellate court reviewed the trial court’s decision and ultimately sided with the mother. The trial court failed to determine the amount of income the mother supposedly made and instead simply assumed she had enough income based on her retention of an attorney. Further, the trial court’s order lacked sufficient findings concerning financial assistance the mother was receiving from other parties. The appeals court emphasized the need for detailed findings before assigning the mother 50% of the guardian ad litem fees.

The appeals court thus remanded the issue to the lower court with instructions to determine the mother’s income and establish her ability to pay for the guardian ad litem.

Talk to a Tampa, FL Family Law Attorney Today

 The Tampa, FL divorce attorneys at Westchase Law, P.A. represent the interests of Florida residents pursuing a divorce. We can represent you throughout your divorce case and ensure that your interests are considered by the court. Call our office today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing your next steps right away.

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