What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do?
Family courts in Illinois—like those in the rest of the country—often have the unenviable task of making very difficult decisions regarding how a child will be cared for following the divorce or breakup of his or her parents. In more tragic situations, including those in which the child’s parents are deceased or incarcerated, the courts may need to decide on a guardian or other caretaker for the affected child. Throughout all of these types of cases, Illinois law provides that the child’s best interest should always be the top priority. To make sure the best interests of the child are fully protected, the court may appoint a specially-trained attorney to serve as a guardian ad litem for the duration of the proceedings.
The Role of a GAL
A guardian ad litem, or GAL, is an attorney who does not work on behalf of any party in a child-related legal matter. Instead, he or she serves more as an extension of the court and as an independent expert witness. The GAL is tasked with developing a proposed outcome for the case that, in his or her trained opinion, will provide the best possible scenario for the child. To do so, the GAL is granted the power to investigate the relevant circumstances of all involved parties by conducting interviews, visiting homes, and reviewing appropriate documents, including previous court records.
The GAL will then present his or her recommendation to the court as testimony, subject to cross-examination by either party. If a guardian ad litem has been appointed, however, the appointing court tends to take his or her recommendation very seriously.
Should You Request a GAL?
Illinois law allows the court to appoint a guardian ad litem based on its own accord or as the result of a motion by either party. This means that you have the right to ask for a GAL to be appointed for your case. A GAL may be necessary if you and the other parent—or other party, depending on the nature of your case—are unwilling or unable to compromise and reach an agreement. If you can agree on larger issues, such as major decision-making authority, but are having trouble deciding, for example, where the child will spend Christmas each year, a guardian ad litem may not truly be necessary
Call a Wheaton Lawyer
Every case is different, which means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to child-related legal concerns. If you would like to discuss your situation with an experienced DuPage County family law attorney, contact MKFM Law. Call 630-665-7300 to schedule your confidential consultation today.