Divorce or family law cases involving child custody primarily focus on “the best interests of the child.” In particularly complex and contested child custody cases, such as ones involving very young children or allegations of abuse, one of the parents’ lawyers may request that a guardian ad litem (GAL) be appointed, or the judge may choose to assign one to the case. A GAL is a lawyer whose sole duty is to determine the best interests of the child through a home study, including interviews with the children, the parents, other family members, teachers, and any other relevant parties. At the conclusion of this investigation, the GAL will submit a report to the judge to help the judge make a more informed decision.
What to Do if a Guardian Ad Litem Gets Involved
Whether the GAL is assigned to your case because of your request, the other parent’s request, or to help the judge have an outside perspective on the case, there are certain things you can do that will enable a much smoother process. By following these tips, you can ensure that your child will be represented properly and fairly:
Stay calm and do not worry—If the other parent or the judge requests the GAL, you may be concerned about what this means for you. You might think that you have done something wrong or that the subsequent investigation will paint you in a negative light, resulting in a decision against you. More often than not, this is not the case. If the judge has assigned the GAL, the purpose is to get a clearer picture of your child’s best interests. The GAL will usually strive for objectivity while acting as a strong advocate for what is best for your child.
Be communicative—Be clear and open in all communication with the GAL. Whenever possible, communicate important matters in written form so that there is a record of your discussions.
Encourage your child to open up—Do not attempt to negatively influence your child’s opinion of the GAL. The final report might show that the child is echoing your negative sentiments, and this could be seen as a failure to cooperate with the investigation. However, if you make sure your child understands the importance of telling the truth when talking with the GAL, the GAL can get a much clearer understanding of the child’s best interests.
Be honest and forthright—Always tell the truth rather than attempting to deflect questions or withhold facts. Sooner or later, someone—whether it is the GAL, the judge, or your ex-partner’s lawyer—will discover any consequential information that you might be hiding, so you may as well clear the air and discuss all relevant issues from the start. This will help the GAL’s investigation go more smoothly, moving the case along with greater expediency.
Be cooperative—GALs will take note of a lack of cooperation on your part, and odds are the court will not look kindly upon an uncooperative parent. This can be particularly obstructive to the investigation and could further impede the GAL’s efforts and the custody case in general.
Do not be bitter—No matter how wrong you think the other parent is, and no matter how much resentment you have toward that parent, try your best not to criticize them in front of the GAL. While it is important to tell your side of the story, sharing overly negative opinions could be seen as disrespectful and uncooperative, which might make it easier for the judge to view the final report and decide that your maturity level is lacking or that you will not be able to effectively share parental responsibilities or parenting time with the other parent.
Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
If you are interested in having a guardian ad litem assigned to your case, or if you need to know how to respond if one has already been assigned, contact a Wheaton IL guardian ad litem attorney. The attorneys at Andrew Cores Family Law Group often serve as guardians ad litem, and we will provide you with representation and help you understand the steps you can take to protect your parental rights and your child’s best interests. For a free consultation, reach out to us at 630-871-1002.