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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 divorce attorney child custody

Illinois divorce law states that if a couple cannot agree on the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court will make a decision based on the couple’s child’s best interests. These decision-making rights allow either one or both parents to make determinations regarding a child’s education, health (both physical and mental), and if and how religion will be incorporated into their child’s upbringing. The law continues to define what a child’s best interests are in the eyes of the court. Certain factors, including psychological issues, can play a role in making child custody decisions.

A Child’s Well-Being

The overall goal of child-related decisions in a divorce is to do what is in the child’s best interest. Some of the most significant considerations when deciding child custody in an Illinois divorce may include:

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Oak Brook child custody lawyerIllinois has extensive child representation laws to help protect children’s best interests when their parents are divorcing. A court may appoint one of several types of child advocates to investigate before making decisions in proceedings involving child support, custody, visitation, and allocation of parental responsibilities. To represent a child, a court can appoint an attorney, a child representative, or a Guardian Ad Litem.

A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is a professional with specialized training to advocate on behalf of children in legal cases. He or she submits a written report that can play a significant role in divorce proceedings and he or she can be called as a witness, so it is common for parents to get nervous when a GAL interviews them. Speak with a divorce attorney who has a rich understanding of a Guardian Ad Litem’s training and responsibilities for help understanding how they fit into your case. In the meantime, here are some tips to increase your chances of making a positive impression on a GAL.

Tips for Working with a Guardian Ad Litem

Despite your best efforts to appear as an infallible parent to a GAL, you should be honest. A GAL will be taking your financial situation, mental health, physical health, and home life into consideration before writing his or her report. It is best to be forthright since there is a good chance that he or she might call your bluff and form a negative impression. For example, if money is an issue, you should work with the court and the GAL office about starting a payment plan. Late payments look more irresponsible than making accommodations for fees.

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