Guardian ad Litem: Serving the Best Interest of Children
Separation and divorce can obviously have a tremendous impact on children. Once a child custody or visitation order is established, the affected children must adapt to new living arrangements, often spending time with each parent. The process of establishing a custody or visitation order, however, can be extremely complicated as many parents find it difficult to get beyond their own emotional turbulence on focus on their children.
If the parents in such a situation are unable to negotiate an acceptable arrangement regarding their children, the outcome may be left to the discretion of the court. As the case is litigated, though, contentiousness and hostility can cause some parents to lose sight of their child’s best interest and, in the worst cases, attempt to use their child as leverage against the other parent.
In Illinois, fortunately, state law permits the court to take action when necessary to ensure the best interests of the child are being pursued in any proceeding related to custody, visitation, or any other interest involving child welfare. In many cases, the court may elect to appoint a qualified attorney to serve as guardian ad litem for the duration of the case.
The guardian ad litem works as an extension of the court rather than as counsel to a particular party in the case. His or her responsibility is to provide the court with an independent, expert examination of the case in order to recommend the outcome that he or she finds would most benefit the child. To that end, the guardian ad litem is expected to conduct an investigation into the facts and family situation. He or she is granted the power by the court to interview all relevant parties and to “take whatever reasonable steps are necessary to obtain all information pertaining to issues affecting the child.”
Upon completion of the investigation, the guardian ad litem provides his or her recommendations to the involved parties and the court. The parties may choose to reach an agreement based the recommendations, but if no agreement is reached, the recommendations are entered into the case as expert testimony. As per the usual rules of courtroom procedure, the guardian ad litem may be called as witness to defend his or findings on cross-examination. Due the nature of situations requiring the services of a guardian ad litem, the court is expected to give the recommendation serious consideration when making the final decision on the case.
If you live in Kane County and a judge has appointed a guardian ad litem for your child, you may have questions. Contact an experienced Geneva family law attorney today at the Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates. Having served as a court-appointed guardian ad litem, Mr. Warlick is committed to protecting your child’s best interests and can help you understand every step of the process.