What Is a Guardian ad Litem?

Posted on in Guardian ad Litem

Geneva family law attorneyFamily law is one of the most sensitive and challenging areas of the law. While the applicable statutes themselves may not be quite as complicated as tax or real estate law, for example, the personal nature of issues such as divorce and the allocation of parental responsibilities make them particularly difficult for who are going through them.

In some cases, child-related disputes can become so contentious that the parties are unable to remain objective and focused on the child’s best interests. When this happens, the court may appoint a specially trained attorney to serve as a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the duration of the proceedings.

The Job of a GAL

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do?

Posted on in Guardian ad Litem

Geneva family law attorneySometimes, though we hate to admit it, we are not our children’s best advocates. In an environment such as family court, especially, the state tends to be of the opinion that we cannot impartially advocate for our children’s best interests. To protect their interests and their safety, professionals referred to as guardians ad litem are often appointed to act for children in legal proceedings.

Role of a GAL

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney who may be appointed by a family court judge to ensure that the interests of children are protected. Each county has its own procedure for appointing a GAL and will make such appointments with varying frequency. In Cook County, for example, in Cook County, there is a tendency to use GALs slightly less, as the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian is sometimes used to represent minors in specific cases.

Kane County family law attorneyWhen you are embroiled in a difficult divorce, it can be nearly impossible to work cooperatively with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Every aspect of the proceedings may seem like a fight with almost zero chance of reaching a negotiated resolution. While fighting over money and marital property is certainly bad enough, the problems get even worse when there are children involved. That is why the law in Illinois provides the court with the authority to appoint an attorney specifically to protect a child’s best interest in any matter related to parental responsibilities (child custody), parenting time, non-parental visitation, child support, or any other child-related legal proceeding.

Protecting the Child’s Best Interests

The court may appoint an attorney to serve in one of three roles: an attorney for the child, a child representative, or a guardian ad litem. Of these, the child representative and the guardian ad litem are the most commonly used and the guardian ad litem is usually the most appropriate for younger children.

guardian ad litem, fees, Geneva family law attorneyIf you are—or expect soon to be—in the midst of a complicated child-related legal dispute, there is a very strong possibility that the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to assist in the case. A guardian ad litem, or GAL, works essentially as an extension of the court in matters relating to allocating parental responsibilities—formerly child custody—adoption, guardianship, parental relocations, and any other proceeding that is expected to impact or protect a child’s best interests. While it may be useful to have a trained, objective attorney helping the court make a decision in your case, you should be aware that the services of a GAL are not usually free, and the court itself will probably not be picking up the tab.

Filing of Fees to the Court

Within 90 days of being appointed, the GAL must present a detailed invoice to the court and both parties for services rendered. These services include the GAL’s assigned duties to investigate the circumstances of the family’s situation, to interview appropriate parties, and to prepare a recommendation. If the GAL has been required to testify in court, he or she may include this time in the invoice as well, along with any other reasonable expenses incurred. Should the GAL’s services be required beyond those contained in the original invoice, he or she must file a new invoice every subsequent 90 days.

guardian ad litem, Geneva family lawyerIt is all too familiar to most people that legal proceedings related to children can quickly deteriorate into ugly, contentious battles. Although it can happen for many reasons, unfortunately, it occurs most often when parents cannot separate themselves from the emotion of the situation, allowing their feelings for each other to cloud their judgment regarding the child’s best interests. Despite recent changes to the statute in Illinois regarding child custody—now called the allocation of parental responsibilities—there is no way to entirely prevent acrimonious disputes. To help the process, however, a family court has the authority under law to appoint a guardian ad litem, an attorney who serves as an extension of the court.

The Guardian ad Litem’s Duties

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a guardian ad litem (GAL) must be an appropriately trained and certified attorney, who is appointed to assist the court in understanding the circumstance relevant to a child-related legal matter. A GAL may be asked to help in the allocation of parental responsibilities, proceedings for parenting time disputes, relocations, and any other matter in which the child’s best interest are of primary concern.

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