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DuPage County family law attorneysIf you are going through a divorce, child custody dispute, or another family law proceeding, you may be interested in learning about guardians ad litem (GALs). A GAL is a child representative who helps protect a child’s best interests during a legal proceeding. GALs are sometimes appointed to a case by a judge and they are sometimes requested by a parent who wants to ensure that his or her child’s best interests are being prioritized. A guardian ad litem can have considerable influence over the allocation of parental responsibilities and other family law concerns, so it is important to understand how the appointment of a GAL may impact your case.

GALs Are Child Advocates

A guardian ad litem is often appointed during child custody disputes and family law cases involving allegations of abuse. The GAL is specially trained in family law matters and is tasked with representing children’s best interests during legal disputes. If a GAL is appointed to your case, he or she will investigate the circumstances of the case and then make a formal recommendation to the court about the case’s outcome. During the investigation, the GAL may:

  • Conduct an evaluation of each parent’s home
  • Interview each parent about the relevant issues
  • Speak with the child about his or her thoughts, feelings, and opinions
  • Talk to siblings and other household members
  • Interview teachers, social workers, friends, childcare workers, and other people who are involved in the child’s life
  • Review the child’s school reports and medical records
  • Review the parents’ criminal records, financial documents, police reports involving any previous domestic disputes, Child Protective Services records, and other relevant documents

Cooperating with the GAL is Important

If you are like most people, you value your privacy. It may make you uncomfortable to have someone looking around your home, researching your past, or asking you questions about accusations of domestic violence. In some cases, parents may even be asked to take a drug test or undergo a mental health evaluation. While this process can be awkward, fully cooperating with the GAL is the best way to make a good impression on him or her. Provide the GAL with the information and resources he or she requests and cooperate with any investigations and interviews. Do not feel like you need to “put on a show” for the GAL or pressure your child to act differently than he or she typically does.

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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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