Cooperating With a Guardian ad Litem
It 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.
The GAL is expected to conduct a comprehensive investigation regarding the case. He or she may interview the involved parties, the child, and any other pertinent individuals, as well as examine documents, other court findings, and records. Based on the findings, the guardian ad litem then prepares a recommendation for the court regarding what he or she believes to be in the child’s best interest. The recommendation is to be handled as expert witness testimony, subject to cross-examination by counsel for both parties.
Your Cooperation is Expected
Refusing to cooperate with a guardian ad litem’s investigation can be extremely detrimental to your case, as it can give the impression that you are not interested in what is best for your child. In order to make an accurate determination, the GAL needs all parties to be forthcoming and honest about their situation. The court has the authority to order your cooperation, and failure to comply can result in sanctions or findings of contempt of court. Worse, your refusal may also result in a judgment strongly favoring the other party, possibly making it more difficult for you to maintain a relationship with your child.
As an experienced, court-appointed guardian ad litem, Attorney Doug Warlick understands the important nature of the role. He is prepared to assist you in your child-related legal matter and to work with a GAL when necessary. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact a skilled Geneva family law attorney by calling 630-232-9700.