When parents cannot agree on how to divide parental responsibilities, including decision-making authority and parenting time, the court is forced to make decisions for them. In doing so, the court will hear arguments and proposals from both parents, but with the understanding that it is nearly impossible for most parents to objectively consider the best interests of their children. Sometimes, the court may even suspect that it is not getting the full story from one or both parents. When this is the case, Illinois law allows a judge to appoint an independent attorney to serve as guardian ad litem (GAL) for the duration of the proceedings.
What Is a GAL?
A guardian ad litem is a licensed attorney who meets certain experience requirements and who has undergone select training related to resolving family law disputes. Each county maintains a list of qualified GALs who may be appointed in a given case. Either party in the case may ask for a GAL to be appointed or the court may make the appointment on its own.
Unlike a “regular” attorney who advocates on behalf of his or her client, the guardian ad litem is not considered to be counsel for any party in the case. Instead, the GAL serves as the eyes and ears of the court in investigative and advisory capacities. The GAL is tasked with gathering information about the case in question and providing a recommendation to the court regarding the outcome.
Cooperating With a GAL
When a guardian ad litem is appointed, it is important to cooperate with him or her during the investigation. The GAL will almost certainly interview you and your child, as well as the other parent, teachers, relatives, and anyone else whose input may be important. The guardian ad litem will probably also visit your home to ensure that you are providing a safe environment for your child. Additionally, the GAL may also ask for financial records, court documents, and other paperwork that support any statements or arguments you have made.
The purpose of the investigation is for the GAL to develop a clear picture of the situation surrounding the child. If you have been honest in your court filings and testimony, the GAL’s investigation will likely strengthen your case. If you have been deceptive, your deceptions will probably be exposed.
Based on the information collected, the guardian ad litem will prepare a recommended outcome for the court. The report is submitted to the court and treated as expert witness testimony, subject to cross-examination by both sides. While the court is not required to use the GAL’s recommendation, judges are usually inclined to give substantial weight to a GAL’s report due to the attorney’s experience, training, and access to information.
Contact Our Office
If a guardian ad litem has been appointed in your child-related case, our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys can help you cooperate with him or her. Contact Andrew Cores Family Law Group to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team today. Call 630-871-1002 for an appointment.