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What is a Guardian Ad Litem’s Role in an Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Divorce

DuPage County family law attorney, guardian ad litemChildren are impacted by a divorce just as much as their parents, but their situation is also unique due to their age. Minors cannot represent themselves in court and are often too young to understand their own best interests, which is the paramount factor in determining parental responsibility allocation. In a contested case or under other circumstances, a judge may decide to appoint an advocate for the child. Under Illinois law, the court has three options:

  1. Attorney for the Child;
  2. Child Representative; or
  3. Guardian ad Litem.

Each of these positions carries its own powers and capabilities, so it is important to understand the role of the guardian ad litem if one has been appointed for minor children in your divorce.

Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Defined

The GAL is a court-appointed official who acts as the “eyes and ears of the court” in different matters involving children, including divorce. A judge cannot observe children in their own environment, going about their daily routine, which is instrumental in making a parental responsibility determination that aligns with the best interests of a minor child. The GAL is appointed to conduct this type of investigation and report back to the court on what he or she discovers.

The Guardian Ad Litem’s Job

Once appointed, the GAL will schedule a meeting with divorcing parents and their minor children to review their living situation, interview all relevant individuals, and talk with the child. The GAL prepares a report based upon the findings during this meeting, which includes a recommendation of how the court should rule on parental responsibility allocation and other relevant issues. The judge is not bound by the GAL’s recommendation, but it is generally given weight because these court appointees have special training.

The report is filed with the court and shared with both parents, and it acts as the GAL’s testimony in court. Therefore, the parties do have the opportunity for cross-examination. The GAL can file pleadings and motions on behalf of the child, just as the child’s attorney would. Still, the role is more expansive than a lawyer’s because the GAL is able to give recommendations; a lawyer would only present arguments.

Guardian Ad Litem Fees

A GAL will charge fees for his or her services, and it is up to the court to determine payment. Often, the GAL fees are subtracted from the marital property before it is equitably divided between the divorcing couple.

Talk to a Lawyer About a Guardian ad Litem Appointment

A judge in a divorce case may need assistance in determining important issues involving parental responsibility allocation, so the guardian ad litem steps in to be a sort of witness for the court to assess the best interests of a child. Divorcing parents must understand the role of the GAL, or any other advocate appointed by the court on the child’s behalf. Complicated legal issues arise any time there are contested matters in a divorce, but an experienced DuPage County family law attorney can advise you on the proceedings. For more information on the three different types of child representation in Illinois, please contact the offices of Davi Law Group, LLC today.



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