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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

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.

child representative, best interest, Kane County Family Law AttorneyA seven year old Massachusetts boy has spent more than a month in a coma after being allegedly starved and abused by his father. The man had gained custody of the child in a seven-minute hearing in late June of last year, after only recently acknowledging that he was the boy’s father. Officials and legal experts are pointing the case as a prime example of the need for representation on behalf of the child in custody situations.

For most of his life, the boy was raised by his maternal grandmother, who agreed to transfer custody of the child to his father. The child’s mother has been estranged for two years, but maintained the rights to visitation. In the months that followed, authorities received several complaints of neglect regarding the boy, but a visit by a state social worker had no apparent effect. Two weeks later, the boy went into a coma and was hospitalized with burns and extensive bruising, and weighing just under 40 pounds.

Family members now admit that the boy’s father has a history of violence and mental illness, including bipolar disorder and borderline schizophrenia. According to reports, however, the father’s parental fitness was never called into question and the court transferred custody without checking into the man’s background. He now faces charges for assaulting the child.

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