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The Florida Statutes

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C)

Title V
Chapter 39
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F.S. 39.807
39.807 Right to counsel; guardian ad litem.
(1)(a) At each stage of the proceeding under this part, the court shall advise the parent of the right to have counsel present. The court shall appoint counsel for indigent parents. The court shall ascertain whether the right to counsel is understood and, where appropriate, is knowingly and intelligently waived. The court shall enter its findings in writing with respect to the appointment or waiver of counsel for indigent parents.
(b) Once counsel has been retained or, in appropriate circumstances, appointed to represent the parent of the child, the attorney shall continue to represent the parent throughout the proceedings or until the court has approved discontinuing the attorney-client relationship. If the attorney-client relationship is discontinued, the court shall advise the parent of the right to have new counsel retained or appointed for the remainder of the proceedings.
(c)1. No waiver of counsel may be accepted if it appears that the parent is unable to make an intelligent and understanding choice because of mental condition, age, education, experience, the nature or complexity of the case, or other factors.
2. A waiver of counsel made in court must be of record. A waiver made out of court must be in writing with not less than two attesting witnesses and must be filed with the court. The witnesses shall attest to the voluntary execution of the waiver.
3. If a waiver of counsel is accepted at any stage of the proceedings, the offer of assistance of counsel must be renewed by the court at each subsequent stage of the proceedings at which the parent appears without counsel.
(d) This subsection does not apply to any parent who has voluntarily executed a written surrender of the child and consent to the entry of a court order therefor.
(2)(a) The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interest of the child in any termination of parental rights proceedings and shall ascertain at each stage of the proceedings whether a guardian ad litem has been appointed.
(b) The guardian ad litem has the following responsibilities:
1. To investigate the allegations of the petition and any subsequent matters arising in the case and, unless excused by the court, to file a written report. This report must include a statement of the wishes of the child and the recommendations of the guardian ad litem and must be provided to all parties and the court at least 72 hours before the disposition hearing.
2. To be present at all court hearings unless excused by the court.
3. To represent the best interests of the child until the jurisdiction of the court over the child terminates or until excused by the court.
(c) A guardian ad litem is not required to post bond but shall file an acceptance of the office.
(d) A guardian ad litem is entitled to receive service of pleadings and papers as provided by the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure.
(e) This subsection does not apply to any voluntary relinquishment of parental rights proceeding.
History.s. 9, ch. 87-289; s. 17, ch. 90-306; s. 36, ch. 94-164; s. 89, ch. 98-403; s. 46, ch. 99-193; s. 36, ch. 2000-139.
Note.Former s. 39.465.