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The Different Types of Child Representation

Naperville Divorce Attorney

The Different Types of Child RepresentationIn some divorce cases, the couple's child or children need representation of their own. A child's best interest is always the court's top priority when determining an appropriate parenting time arrangement and division of parental responsibilities for the child. Sometimes, particularly in contested divorces, it is necessary for the child to have his or her own individual representation in the form of a child's attorney, a child representative, or a guardian ad litem (GAL). These are three distinct positions, each with a unique role and set of responsibilities to a child of divorcing parents. The court has the right to determine who will pay the fees for working with one of these individuals. This responsibility can be placed on one or both parents, the marital estate, or the child's estate.

Your child has rights related to your divorce, such as the right to a parenting arrangement that fits his or her needs, the right to maintain a healthy, consistent relationship with both parents following your divorce, and the right to articulate his or her preferences regarding his or her parenting arrangement if he or she is old enough to do so. The judge presiding over your case may interview your child at any time, for any reason that can help him or her make decisions about your child's care after the divorce is finalized. Take the time to learn about the different professionals who could be assigned to your child during your divorce. These individuals are not adversaries – they are working for your child. Discuss appropriate interactions with them with your lawyer before your meetings with them.

Guardian Ad Litem

A guardian ad litem is an individual assigned to determine relevant facts about a child's relationships with his or her parents and the family's lifestyle to help the court determine an appropriate post-divorce parenting plan. The guardian ad litem does not actually make determinations about a child's care, but instead makes recommendations to the court to aid its decision-making process. To obtain information for the court, a guardian ad litem may visit both parents' homes and interview them, the child, and other members of their households.

A guardian ad litem can be called as a witness to testify in a divorce case.

Child Representative

A child representative is an attorney who advocates for a specific parenting plan after a couple's divorce after reviewing the relevant facts of the case. Unlike a guardian ad litem, who determines these relevant facts and submits them to the court for review, a child representative examines the facts presented to him or her to investigate the case and acts as an advocate for a specific course of action regarding the children's care. Child representatives cannot testify as witnesses in the divorce cases they handle.

Child's Attorney

A child's attorney is exactly what the title implies: an attorney who works specifically for a child. Unlike a guardian ad litem or a child representative, who works for a child in the context of aiding the court, a child's attorney works directly for the child and provides all that comes with independent legal counsel for an adult, such as confidentiality and representation of the child's interests and desires. It is relatively rare for a child to be assigned an attorney, because, generally, a child does not have the capacity to determine his or her interests and act upon them. Much like with attorney representation for adults, the court can assign an attorney to a child if he or she – or the divorcing parents – cannot afford an attorney's fees. This is also true for GALs and child representatives.

Work With an Experienced Naperville Divorce Attorney

If you are a parent considering filing for divorce, work with a passionate DuPage County divorce lawyer who has experience helping parents determine whether their child needs representation as well as working through cases where the court assigns a child a representative. Your child will be as affected by your divorce as you and your spouse will be, so be sure to keep his or her needs and best interests in mind at all times as you move through the divorce process. To learn more, schedule your free legal consultation with a member of Pesce Law Group, P.C. today.

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