Disputes over child-related matters can often be quite contentious. The resulting bitterness and resentment can affect the relationship between the parents for years to come. Issues involving child custody—now called the allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois—parenting time, child support, and any other concern related to children are complicated, and when parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will need to step in and make long-term decisions for the family. In some cases, the court will appoint an independent attorney called a guardian ad litem to assist in the decision-making process, and it is important for you to understand why he or she may have been appointed.
What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do?
To appreciate the reasons behind the court's appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL), you must first understand the role that the GAL will play in your proceedings. The GAL does not represent either parent or the child; instead, he or she works essentially as an extension of the court and an expert witness. He or she has the power to investigate the family's situation by conducting interviews, reviewing documents, and examining any other relevant information. Based on the results of the investigation, the GAL provides a recommendation to the court of what the ideal outcome should be in the case. Because eligible GALs undergo specific training required by the county, their recommendations are given significant weight by the court.
Reasons to Appoint a GAL
Some family court judges prefer to appoint a GAL in nearly every child-related case while others may wait until a need becomes evident. If the court can see that reasonable progress is being made between the parents, the services of a GAL may not be necessary. If, on the other hand, the parents refuse to compromise or continue to make accusations against one another, a GAL is likely to be appointed....