During a contentious divorce or custody battle, parents may not be able to agree on what is best for their child. A judge, who is a third-party observer, will hear arguments from both parents’ lawyers but may still need to know more. One way courts in Illinois deal with situations like this is by appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child. This is especially true when there are allegations of abuse. But what exactly is a guardian ad litem, and what can you expect them to do in your case?
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A guardian ad litem (GAL) in Illinois is a person who has undergone specific and ongoing training that qualifies them to act as an independent representative of a child in a divorce or custody case. They are also often a licensed attorney, but when acting as a GAL, they do not represent either of the parents, but rather function as a kind of special investigator whose role is to collect information and analyze the entire family situation of the child.
Even if a parent requests a guardian ad litem be appointed by the court, the GAL is concerned only with understanding a child’s best interests. They will meet with parents, teachers, and extended family members, assess each parent’s living situation, and investigate any allegations of domestic violence or abuse. They will then create a report to detail their findings.
After they create their report, the guardian ad litem may be called as a witness in controversial child custody cases, and they may be questioned by the judge and by the attorneys representing the parents. This gives children the opportunity to have their best interests voiced in court, rather than having to express them on their own.
What Should I Do If a GAL Has Been Appointed For My Case?
If a guardian ad litem is appointed in your divorce or custody case, you should be calm, communicative, and honest with your guardian ad litem. Do not try to influence your child’s perspective; if the guardian ad litem’s report finds that the child is repeating what you say verbatim, this could reflect poorly on you. Likewise, if you try to hide or manipulate information and it later comes to light, you will not give the guardian ad litem–and therefore, the judge–a positive impression of you as an individual or of your parenting capabilities.
Remain cooperative and positive in front of your guardian ad litem. While you should always tell the truth, including any concerns you have about the other parent, remember that the guardian ad litem is trying to discover what will be best for the child. When children are exposed to negative criticism of their other parent, it can be traumatic to the child and damaging to their future relationship with that parent.
Contact a Wheaton, IL Family Law Attorney Today
Knowing that a guardian ad litem has been assigned in your case can be concerning, but with the guidance and representation of an experienced DuPage County family law attorney, you can be sure to handle your interactions with the GAL to the best of your abilities. Contact Andrew Cores Family Law Group for a free, confidential consultation at 630-871-1002 today.