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When to Ask for a Guardian ad Litem

 Posted on July 13, 2018 in Child Custody

Naperville family law attorneyIf you are involved in a dispute with your former spouse or partner over issues related to your shared children, you know how challenging the situation can be. Child-related legal matters are among the most difficult in any area of the law. Disagreements over parental responsibilities and parenting time—which used to collectively be called child custody—can disrupt not only your life but the lives of your child as well.

According to Illinois law, family court judges have the authority to appoint a specially-trained attorney to help during a child-related dispute. The attorney may serve in one of three capacities: attorney for the child, child representative, and guardian ad litem. Of the three, the role of guardian ad litem is the most common.

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do?

A guardian ad litem, or GAL, essentially serves as the eyes and ears of the court when a child-related legal matter is in dispute. The GAL has the authority to conduct an investigation into the lives of both parents, the child, and any other relevant parties. As part of the investigation, the GAL may interview individuals, review court records and other documents, and visit homes, schools, and other locations. The GAL will use the gathered information to develop a recommendation regarding what he or she believes to be the best possible outcome of the case in question for the child.

This recommendation is presented to the court as expert witness testimony. The GAL is considered an expert because of the training required to become an eligible guardian ad litem. Each party in the case has the right to cross-examine the GAL regarding his or her report. The court will generally give significant weight to the recommendation but is not bound to follow it completely.

Should You Ask for a GAL?

The law in Illinois allows a judge to appoint a guardian ad litem based on the judge’s appraisal of the situation or based on a request from either party. If the parents in a given case are cooperative, forthcoming, and civil, a GAL will probably not be necessary. If, however, the parents have a history of deceit and contentiousness, it may be difficult for the judge to trust the testimony of either party, and a GAL may be needed. Allegations or proven instances of domestic violence could also make a GAL necessary.

In short, if you feel that you are not being heard during your dispute, your attorney can help you determine if it would be in your best interest to ask for the appointment of a guardian ad litem. Keep in mind that the GAL will look into you and your life as much as that of the other party. If you ask for a GAL, be prepared to offer your full cooperation.

Contact Our Office for Help

If you have additional questions about how a guardian ad litem might be used in your case, contact a Naperville family law attorney. Call 630-352-2240 for a confidential consultation at Pesce Law Group, P.C. today.



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