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DuPage County child custody attorneysDivorcing and unmarried parents sometimes have disagreements about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. When these disagreements require court intervention, an Illinois family court judge may appoint an attorney called a guardian ad litem who is tasked with representing the child’s interests. A parent involved in a child custody dispute may also request a guardian ad litem (GAL) to appointed during a child-related legal dispute.

Guardian ad Litem Investigations

GALs are often appointed in family law cases involving especially contentious child-related disputes or allegations of domestic violence. Because children cannot adequately advocate for their own best interests in court, a guardian ad litem advocates on the child’s behalf. The GAL will typically conduct an investigation in order to learn more about the circumstances of the dispute so that he or she can offer an informed recommendation to the court. This can include investigating the parents’ homes and everyday lives as well as investigation of other individuals important to the case. The GAL may also interview school officials or other people involved in the child’s life. He or she may review court documents, financial statements, the child’s school reports, and other relevant documents.

Making a Recommendation to the Court

Once the guardian ad litem has conducted a thorough investigation, he or she will use all of the information gathered to decide what he or she thinks is best for the child with regard to the child custody case. The GAL then makes a formal recommendation to the court explaining his or her findings. GALs receive special training and are considered expert witnesses during legal proceedings. Although the court is not mandated to follow the GAL’s recommendation, courts typically put a great deal of importance on the GAL’s advice.

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DuPage County family law attorneysWhen it becomes evident that you are headed for divorce, it is important to start planning for the process. You will need to have a good understanding of your current financial situation and what constitutes your ideal post-divorce scenario. Depending upon the circumstances of your relationship with your spouse, you may be able to begin negotiating the terms of your divorce agreement. At first, of course, such discussions would need to be relatively informal, but you and your spouse can at least start talking about the future. The conversation is even more important if you have a child or children together, so that you can both better understand the role you are to play in your child’s upbringing.

Determine a Primary Residence

Among your first child-related concerns should be which parent will assume responsibility for a majority of the parenting time. This is an important consideration in determining where the child will attend school. The parent who does not have the majority of the parenting time will most likely be responsible for paying child support. Just because one of you has less parenting time than the other is not considered to be a reflection on your parental rights; rather it is more of a logistical determination.

Significant Decision-Making

You and your spouse will also need to discuss how you will make significant decisions regarding your child’s life. You may agree to cooperate and make each decision together, or you may determine that each of you should have separate but complementary responsibilities for decisions about your child’s education, medical care, or religious training. You and your spouse may have particular areas of strength or strong feelings about a specific area of your child’s life that make one of you better equipped to handle related decisions.

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Naperville parenting plan attorneysIf you are a parent who is considering a divorce, there is a good chance that you probably worried about how your divorce will affect your children. While you most likely realize that children are resilient and able to adapt, it is understandable that you might have fears about how your kids will handle your divorce and the related concerns.

One of the best things that you can do for your children is to commit to cooperating with your ex-spouse when it comes to child-related issues. Cooperative parenting—also called co-parenting—starts with a comprehensive parenting plan. A parenting plan is also required under Illinois law for divorcing parents who wish to share parental responsibilities. Your parenting plan must contain provisions for dividing decision-making authority, each parent’s days with the children, and other important matters. It must also address whether one or both parents will have the right of first refusal for extra parenting time.

Understanding the Right of First Refusal

The phrase “first refusal” might sound negative, but the right of first refusal can actually be a very good thing. The right of first refusal refers to the right of a parent to be offered additional parenting time when the other parent requires child care during the other parent’s scheduled time. The parent who is offered the additional parenting time is not obligated to accept it; instead, he or she has the right to refuse it.  

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Naperville family law attorneysWhen parents get divorced and wish to share custody of their child in Illinois, they are expected by the court to create a parenting plan. This plan outlines how parental responsibilities will be shared as well as how decisions about the child’s upbringing will be made after the divorce is finalized. There are certain elements of a parenting plan that are required under Illinois laws, but many experts suggest including other aspects of childrearing in the plan as well.

If you are considering a divorce, it is a good idea to learn about what you must include in a parenting plan. A qualified family law attorney can help you make your parenting plan the foundation of a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Requirements for Illinois Parenting Plan

At a minimum, a parenting plan in Illinois must include:

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Naperville family law attorneyWhen parents get divorced or unmarried parents have a child together, there are often disagreements regarding issues of child custody and visitation. In Illinois, child custody is called the “allocation of parental responsibilities” and visitation is called “parenting time.” If you and your former spouse or partner have disputes about parenting time or parental responsibilities, you may require court intervention to help solve these problems. Illinois family court judges sometimes appoint a specially-trained attorney to help when parents have disputes regarding children. Typically, the attorney serves in one of three roles: child representative, attorney for the child, or guardian ad litem. Read on to learn more about the most common of these specially-trained attorneys, a guardian ad litem.

What Is the Purpose of a Guardian ad Litem?

Courts generally appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the interests of a child, infant, unborn child, or other person who cannot advocate for themselves. The job of a GAL in a child custody case is to protect the legal rights of the child or children involved in the dispute. He or she will investigate the lives of each parent and anyone else relevant to the case. This may include interviewing parents and other parties, as well as visiting the child’s home and school and reviewing relevant documents. The GAL will then use this information to make a recommendation to the court about what he or she thinks is the best course of action moving forward.

Does the Court Have to Follow the Guardian ad Litem’s Recommendation?

Not just anyone can be appointed to act as guardian ad litem in a child custody case. An attorney acting as a GAL must have special training and education. Because of this, the information presented by the GAL is considered expert witness testimony. Although the court is not required to follow the recommendation presented by the GAL, this recommendation carries significant weight. Each party will have an opportunity to cross-examine the GAL about his or her findings in court.

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