How Is a Guardian Ad Litem Different from a Child Representative?

 Posted on December 31, 2019 in Child Custody

DuPage County child custody attorney GAL child representativeIn previous blogs, we have discussed the role that guardians ad litem (GAL) play in child custody cases. But GALs are not the type of only objective third party who can work to help judges and determine the best interests of children in Illinois. There are also child representatives and attorneys for children. While all three roles are very similar, there are a few distinct differences between them. It is important to know these distinctions in case a lawyer or judge thinks it is a good idea to appoint one for your child custody case.

The Three Roles and How They Are Different

The three roles of guardian ad litem, child representative, and attorney for children are very similar overall in Illinois law, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, even though this is inaccurate. However, each of these roles can serve a different purpose, depending on the case.

  • Guardian Ad Litem—As discussed in prior posts, GALs investigate the children, the parents, the families, any other related parties, and the child’s home life in general in order to develop a comprehensive report that will provide the proper recommendations for a judge with regards to child custody. A GAL will conduct interviews and study the case from the children’s perspective so that they can help make a final determination in the case as a third party.

  • Attorney for Children—As literal as it sounds, this person serves as the legal counsel for the child in a child custody case. This attorney has attorney-client privilege, and they will speak with the child in the case as if he or she is the attorney’s own client. This lawyer files paperwork, examines witnesses, and issues pleas on behalf of the child. Whereas the GAL and child representative advocate for the child’s best interests as determined by thorough and objective investigation, the attorney for the child must solely provide support for the child’s wishes. In many cases, an attorney for children is appointed when the child is old enough to understand how to use the full capabilities of the lawyer at their disposal.

  • Child Representative—This role is similar to a GAL in that a person will be responsible for investigating the case and making recommendations regarding the best interests of the child based on their observations. However, a child representative is also similar to an attorney for the child in that they serve as a personal attorney with attorney-client privilege for the child.

Why Are These Distinctions Between Roles Important?

It is important to understand the distinctions between the responsibilities of the guardian ad litem, attorney for the child, and child representative, because one or more of them might be assigned to your case, and you need to fully comprehend exactly what they will be doing for your child. While much of a GAL’s evaluation will be written into the case, providing the judge and both parties’ lawyers with valuable insights, the GAL’s conclusions are not solely based on the child’s wishes. That is the responsibility of the attorney for the child, if one is appointed. In this sense, the GAL is a more independent, objective third party, whereas the attorney for the child will speak more often on behalf of the child and their desires. A child representative falls in between the other two roles, considering the child’s wishes without being bound by them and providing a report about what they believe will be in the child’s best interests. While all three roles are important, they each have a different perspective that can help resolve a child custody case.

Contact a Wheaton Child Custody Lawyer

Has a guardian ad litem, attorney for children, or child representative been assigned to your child custody case, and you are not sure how to handle the situation? Do you want your lawyer to ask that a third-party attorney be appointed for your child in one of those capacities? Andrew Cores Family Law Group will help you understand the best ways to make sure your children have the representation and advocacy they need during your case. Give our DuPage County family law attorneys a call at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation.


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