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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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Naperville family law attorneyWhen you are involved in a legal dispute regarding your child, you know how important it is to keep the focus on his or her best interests. That being said, it is often incredibly difficult for parents to separate what they want from what is truly best for the child. It is also common for each parent to have a different opinion about what the child actually needs. If the parents cannot work out their differences and create a reasonable parenting arrangement, the court will be required to make the decisions for them. In some situations, the court may appoint a specially-trained lawyer known as a guardian ad litem to assist with the case.

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do?

The guardian ad litem, or GAL, in a child-related legal matter, is a lawyer appointed by the court to identify and advocate for the child’s best interests. Despite his or her qualifications as an attorney, the GAL does not formally represent the child. Instead, he or she is tasked by the court with conducting a full investigation into the family’s circumstances and the home environment that each parent offers the child. The investigation normally includes interviews with each parent, the child, and any other relevant individuals, along with an in-depth review of financial records, court transcripts, and all other pertinent documents.

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Posted on in Family Law

Naperville family law attorneyIn a recent post on this blog, we talked about the role of a guardian ad litem (GAL) and how a GAL is used to help courts make child-related decisions in difficult cases. While many Illinois judges will utilize this option, other are more inclined to appoint a child representative in such cases. A child representative is similar in many ways to a guardian ad litem, but there are a few important differences between the two.

Similarities of a GAL and Child Representative

Like a guardian ad litem, a child representative must be an attorney who has undergone specified training and approved by the county court system to be appointed when needed. Both the GAL and the child representative are given investigative powers to research the circumstances of the case. They are permitted to conduct interviews with the child, both parents, and any other people who may contribute to the case. In addition, both the GAL and child representative may visit the home of each parent and observe the interaction between the parents and the child. Their investigations may also include a review of financial documents, court transcripts, and other items that may impact the court’s decision.

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