When it comes to making decisions regarding child custody—now called the allocation of parental responsibilities in Illinois—a family court judge is an unenviable position. He or she is tasked with making arrangements that will affect the lives of not only the child or children in question but also the both parents and extended families on both sides. In any child-related legal matter, the law in Illinois requires the court to keep the child’s best interest as its highest priority. To ensure that the child’s well-being is fully protected, the court may appoint a duly trained lawyer to serve as a guardian ad litem during the proceedings.
What Is the GAL’s Role
A guardian ad litem, or GAL, is an attorney who has participated in a county-specific training and certification program so that he or she may serve the court in such a capacity. When appointed, the GAL does not represent the child or serve as counsel to any party; rather, he or she operates as an extension of the court itself and is expected to testify as an independent expert witness.
The GAL begins by investigating the circumstances of the case and of all parties involved. This generally includes interviews with each parent, the child, and any other relevant individuals, as well as home visits, and an in-depth review of financial records, court documents and more. Based on the outcome of his or her investigation, the GAL will prepare and present a recommendation regarding the best possible outcome for the child. The report is entered as testimony as is subject to cross-examination by both parties. In most case, the court holds the GAL’s recommendations in high regard and may choose to implement them in their its entirety.
Requesting 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 St. Charles Lawyer
Every case is unique, which means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to child-related legal matters. If you would like to discuss your situation with an experienced Kane County family law attorney, contact Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free, confidential consultation today.