Some divorces and child custody battles can become very contentious, and in these cases, a child’s interests may be served through the appointment of a representative known as a guardian ad litem, who is tasked with advocating solely for the child’s best interests in the proceedings.
Illinois law allows for the appointment of a guardian ad litem in any case that involves child support, visitation, custody, education, parentage, or general welfare of a child. A guardian ad litem may be appointed by a court, sometimes as a routine procedure, or by request of any party in the proceedings. A guardian ad litem is supposed to make recommendations through a written report to the court to help the court render a judgment that is in the child’s best interest. In order to write the report and make recommendations to the court, the guardian ad litem is required to interview the child involved in the case, as well as the parents and any other available witnesses. Either party can question the guardian ad litem in court as to the content of their report.
A guardian ad litem should not be confused with a child’s court ordered attorney, although they both represent the child’s best interests. An attorney appointed to a child would provide independent legal advice for a child, and generally cannot be called to testify or be cross examined.
Since a guardian ad litem can be appointed at the request of either parent, it is possible for a parent requesting a guardian ad litem to think that she is the parent’s attorney. In some cases, parents end up contacting the guardian ad litem to report perceived infractions by the other parent. This may make an already contentious custody battle worse. It is better to let the guardian ad litem conduct an independent investigation with minimal interference. If a parent has concerns about the other parent’s parenting, or something that the child reported, it is better to discuss the matter over with his or her own attorney before reaching out to the guardian ad litem.
Fees for a Guardian Ad Litem
The court determines how a guardian ad litem is to be paid. If the parents are both financially able, the court may decide that the parties should split the costs. However, if one parent is more financially able than the other, the court may order that parent to pay all the fees. If both parents cannot afford the fees, the court may consider ordering reduced or pro bono fees.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you are a parent fighting for custody of your child or for visitation rights, you need a compassionate and experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process. Contact the skilled DuPage County family law attorneys at our firm today for a consultation on your case in Illinois.