If your Illinois divorce includes child visitation or custody arrangements, you may be assigned a Guardian Ad Litem, often referred to as a GAL.
In Family Court, the role of this specially trained, court-appointed advocate is to protect the interests of minor children in a divorce by making recommendations to the Judge regarding custody and visitation decisions. While Judges are not required to follow a GAL’s recommendations, they often do.
The attorneys of both parents have the right to cross-examine the GAL regarding the recommendations given to the Judge.
Once appointed, a GAL has two main duties during the custody discussions:
To determine what decisions will be in the best interests of the children;
To investigate and report to the Court on anything the GAL determines will have an effect (positive or negative) on the children.
Information is gathered in a variety of ways, most often through in-depth discussions with the child and the child’s parents. Known as a home study, this can include questions about the current situation and what you believe your child requires both now and in the future.
If necessary, the GAL will also speak with others who have insights about the child’s welfare such as teachers, neighbors, friends, relatives and doctors. The parents must provide signed releases in some of these situations.
Parents and parties involved in an Illinois divorce case should know that while there are certain duties and obligations of the GAL, information provided to the GAL is not confidential and can be disclosed to the court.
To perform the role of a GAL, a person must participate in on-going specialized training for their particular legal jurisdiction to understand the relevant laws and specific procedures that must be followed. Topics can include mediation and negotiation skills, family and domestic violence issues, child development issues, dynamics of child abuse and neglect, and more.
For Illinois child custody cases, a Guardian Ad Litem is often an attorney who has been practicing for a specific number of years before being appointed to the role. A GAL’s report usually carries a great deal of weight with the court, so it’s important to cooperate as much as possible with the GAL and follow instructions.
I am a trained GAL who has been appointed several times a year as a Guardian Ad Litem for children in a divorce or parental custody situation. A significant amount of my practice is devoted to working with children, and I welcome the opportunity to seek their best interests in a DuPage County divorce situation.
If you need information or assistance on working with a GAL in your divorce or custody case, contact me to learn more.
ABOUT ERIN BIRT
Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.
She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.
Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.