Divorce can be a stressful and lengthy process. When children are involved, it can get even more complicated. If both parents cannot agree on child-related issues such as the allocation of parental responsibilities or parenting time, the final decision in these matters may need to be made by the court. In some cases, a judge may require the help of a neutral party who will not argue on behalf of either parent. Under Illinois law, a guardian ad litem (GAL) is defined as a lawyer appointed by the court in a divorce case who will help determine the best interests of a child. A GAL can be appointed if one parent is concerned about their child’s safety or well-being, or if a judge decides a GAL is needed during the negotiations.
What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do?
In some divorce cases, one parent may wish to relocate to another state with the child due to a job transfer. Other cases may involve suspected child abuse or neglect by one of the parents. In these types of cases, or in other cases involving contentious disputes between divorcing parents, one parent may request that a GAL be assigned, and in other instances, a judge will automatically assign a GAL. A GAL is sometimes referred to as a “Child Representative,” since their primary concern is determining what is in the best interests of the children involved in the case. Judges respect the opinion of a GAL, his or her understanding of the law, and what is best for the child’s welfare. In a way, the GAL acts like a second judge on the case.
The judge will ultimately decide who should have parental responsibilities of a child, but often, the judge has no prior knowledge of the facts of a case. The GAL can provide the judge with details of the case, and they will typically file a report with the court. This report can include descriptions of issues between the parents or between the parents and the child.
The GAL can investigate the family’s history and events or incidents that might have led to the current disputes, and they may predict the future needs of the child. In certain cases, it may be necessary for the GAL to talk to teachers, relatives, neighbors, or physicians to get a better understanding of the child’s behavior or emotional state as a result of the divorce or one parent’s actions. The GAL will usually visit both parents’ homes to interview all family members who live there, and they will meet with each parent and the child. This is referred to as a home study.
The GAL’s main purpose is to investigate and give a recommendation to the judge as to which parent should be allocated parental responsibilities, whether joint or sole parental responsibilities should be allocated, and the amount of parenting time each parent should receive. A judge is not required to follow the GAL's recommendations, but the judge will typically place a lot of weight on the GAL’s opinions.
Contact a Wheaton, IL Family Law Attorney
Divorces that involve children can be contentious, but one of the most important aspects of a divorce case is determining what is in the best interests of the child. Disputes between the parents or other factors that affect the child may lead to the appointment of a guardian ad litem. A compassionate DuPage County divorce lawyer can help you understand the best way to deal with a GAL, making sure your parental rights are protected during your divorce. To schedule a free consultation, call Andrew Cores Family Law Group today at 630-871-1002.