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Know the Difference Between a GAL, Child Attorney, and Child Representative

 Posted on January 06, 2016 in Child Custody

DuPage County child custody attorneys, child attorneyWhen a couple separates, they may have a difficult time agreeing on child custody. When this happens the court has a number of ways of getting the information they need to decide child custody.

Many people are familiar with the guardian ad litem (GAL); however, under Illinois law, a court may appoint an attorney for the child or may use a child representative to assist in a child custody dispute. These are different than GALs and it is important to understand their roles in deciding custody matters.

  • Guardian Ad Litem: A guardian ad litem is an attorney the court appoints to represent the best interests of the child. The GAL will meet with the child, visit his or her home or school, review evidence, and make sure they are familiar with the facts of the case so that they will be able to advise the court on the child’s best interests. The GAL’s central goal is understanding and advancing the best interests of the child.

  • Attorney for the Child: An attorney for the child will represent the rights of the child in the same way the parents’ attorneys represent their interests. For a child’s attorney to effectively represent the child’s rights, the child must be old enough to communicate with the attorney without the presence of his or her parents. The attorney/client relationship for an attorney for a child is the same as any other attorney-client relationship. This means that the attorney may not communicate with the parent about information the child discloses. The attorney for the child may present witnesses at a hearing, but cannot be a witness because of the attorney client privilege between the attorney and the child. This type of attorney is will advocate for his or her client's wishes, not the best interests of the child.

  • Child Representative: A child representative is a combination of the attorney for the child and the GAL. The child representative will have attorney-client privilege the same as the attorney for the child. However, the child representative will also give a recommendation to the court the same as a GAL. The child representative is not required to provide a recommendation that reflects the child’s wishes, but is also not bound by the best interest of the child standard. Additionally, the child representative establishes attorney-client privilege with the child and is not able to testify in a court about the basis for the recommendation.

Let an Attorney Help

Understanding the legal roles of a GAL, attorney for the child, and a child representative, and knowing whether you need to ask for one of these child advocates, can be confusing. When working through a child custody dispute, it is important to consult with an attorney to ensure that both your rights and your child’s rights are upheld. Let the DuPage County child custody attorneys at Davi Law Group, LLC help you with your child custody dispute. We understand the nuances of child advocacy and help you make the best decisions for your family.



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