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What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Posted on in Child Custody

IL divorce lawyerSome child custody cases can get extremely heated, or sometimes there can be issues surrounding what custody arrangement may truly be in the best interests of the child or children involved. When this happens, the judge in the case may choose to involve a volunteer attorney to ensure that the children’s interests are truly represented. This attorney is referred to as a guardian ad litem (GAL), and their presence in a custody case can confuse and anger parents, though there is no need for it to happen. Understanding what the GAL’s role is can help minimize ruffled feathers and ensure that all are working toward the best possible outcome of your divorce vis-a-vis your children.

Fact Finders

A GAL can be named in any custody case, on the motion of either party or on the court’s own authority (in any county in Illinois). Regardless of who makes the motion to bring in a GAL, one will generally be appointed in a custody case only when there are certain facts at issue that require an impartial observer, as the job of a GAL is to be impartial. A GAL acts exclusively in the best interest of the child, reporting only to the court in terms of their findings.

The guardian ad litem’s mission is twofold - to act in the best interests of the child and to submit a written report to the court advising on the best possible custody arrangement for the child or children involved in the case. While the GAL’s recommendation is not binding on the court, it is granted a lot of weight in most cases because the GAL is granted extensive access to the child and the records surrounding issues like finances and past history of the parents. With so much information at their disposal, the GAL’s recommendation is usually prized because the guardian must consider all factors before coming to their conclusions.

Parents May Feel Threatened

While a guardian ad litem is detailed to advocate for the child or children’s best interests, many parents misunderstand the extent of the GAL’s duties, which can cause issues. Parents may assume they have a right to know the GAL’s conclusions or somehow influence them since they are the parent of the child whose rights are being guarded by the GAL when in reality this could not be further from the truth. Sadly, some parents do not act in the best interests of their children - if they did at all times, GALs would not be necessary.

It is imperative that you understand that even though both you and the GAL, at least in theory, want the same thing - your children’s interests protected - you must not treat the GAL as though you are on the same side, as technically, you are not. They have the right under Illinois law to interview you and request relevant information on your parenting, and it can feel as though you are being attacked. But if you have nothing to hide, nothing untoward will come up in the GAL’s report.

Seek Experienced Legal Assistance

If you encounter a guardian ad litem in your custody case, it is because the court wants to ensure your children’s interests are safe and protected. The way to get through such a proceeding is by enlisting knowledgeable legal help so you can navigate through the custody hearing in the best way possible. The dedicated DuPage County family law attorneys at the office of Kathryn L. Harry & Associates want to keep families together as much as possible, and we are happy to put our years of experience in these cases to work for you. Contact our offices today to set up an appointment.

 

Sources:

http://www.cookcountycourt.org/ABOUTTHECOURT/CountyDepartment/DomesticRelationsDivision/ChildRepGuardianAdLitemGAL.aspx

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=075000050K506

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