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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 family law attorneysFor many individuals, it takes a divorce to highlight just how financially dependent a person may be on his or her spouse. This, of course, may be all the more true if you are also trying to raise children. It is for exactly such reasons that the divorce laws in Illinois include provisions for spousal maintenance and child support. These orders are issued, when appropriate, by the court to distribute the financial burden more equitably between you and your ex-spouse. But, what would happen if your ex-spouse was no longer around to provide support for you or your children? Would you be able to get by? If the answer is no, you may want to speak with family law attorney about including life insurance requirements in your divorce agreement.

Why Life Insurance?

A life insurance policy is designed to pay financial benefits to the named beneficiaries of a insured individual upon the insured person’s death. These funds are often used to cover funeral costs, pay down debts, or to simply maintain a similar lifestyle. Married individuals will commonly name their spouse as the primary beneficiary to help provide a level of security in the event of their death.

Reliance on Your Ex-Spouse

It may not be easy to admit, but if you are seeking spousal maintenance or child support, you are still financially dependent, to at least a certain extent, on your former partner. Your reliance may not be as strong as it once was during your marriage, but you likely count on his or her help to provide for your most basic needs and those of your children. If he or she were to die suddenly, you could face tremendous difficulty as a result of the support payment ending.

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DuPage County child custody lawyersIn Illinois, parents who divorce are asked to create a parenting plan. The plan identifies the parent who has the majority of parental responsibility (formerly called custody), describes how major decisions about the child will be made, provides a schedule for sharing parenting time, and more. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement about the terms of the parenting plan through negotiation or mediation, the court may need to decide on a parenting plan on behalf of the parents. However the parenting plan is put in place, it is an official court order that parents are expected to obey completely. If your child’s other parent is not following the directions contained in the parenting plan, he or she could face serious consequences.

When a Parent Intentionally Ignores a Parenting Plan

If your child’s other parent is occasionally late picking up or dropping of your child or makes other minor mistakes with regard to shared parenting, this is not grounds for court action. However, if the parent is purposefully refusing to follow the terms of your parenting plan, it may be time to do something about it. Notify the court of the other parent’s actions and contact an experienced family law attorney. In some cases, a parent who intentionally disobeys a parenting plan can be held in contempt of court and face certain civil consequences. If your child’s other parent is incapable of following the terms of the parenting plan, you may wish to petition the court for a modified parenting plan. Illinois courts will always make child custody and parenting time decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests.  

Parental Abduction and Kidnapping

In extreme cases, a parent’s actions may be considered parental abduction. If you have legal custody of your child and the other parent takes your child away from you and keeps him or her, the other parent may be committing parental abduction. He or she could lose parenting time privileges and face criminal consequences. Parental kidnapping occurs when a parent knowingly confines the child against his or her will through the use of force, threat of force, deceit, or enticement. This is a felony offense punishable by up to seven years in prison. If you believe your child’s other parent has committed parental abduction or kidnapping or otherwise represents a risk to your child, contact the court immediately. Then, reach out to a family law attorney experienced in handling volatile child custody disputes.

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