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guardian ad litem, child representative, Kane County family law attorneyWhen any child-related legal proceeding has reached a point at which it has become clear that the parents or other parties to the case cannot agree on what constitutes the child’s best interest, the court may intervene and appoint an attorney to serve on behalf of the child. There are several roles under law which a lawyer may be appointed to fulfill, but the two most common are called the guardian ad litem and the child representative. The responsibilities of each, as they pertain to family law matters, are specified in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.

Child’s Best Interests

Although only one or the other is typically appointed it a given case, both the guardian ad litem (GAL) and the child representative (CR) share a common goal: identify and advocate for the best interests of the child. In order to identify the best possible outcome for the child, the GAL and CR are both granted investigative powers. They are permitted and encouraged to interview the child, both parents, and any other interested party to the case. They may also review court documents, filings, and other evidence to help establish what they believe to be the most positive situation for the child.

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.

child representative, child custody, Illinois family lawyerAny legal matter related to children can quickly become emotionally charged and fraught with challenges. Parents, especially those going through a bitter divorce or separation, can often have trouble remaining objective and keeping their child’s best interest a priority. In such cases, the court may choose to appoint an independent attorney as a Child Representative to serve the child’s needs without emotional complications.

Child Representative Situations

Frequently in child custody, support, and visitation cases, the interested parties are dealing with a number of contentious issues related to the end of a marriage. Unmarried couples, as well, may struggle to remain civil as the end of any relationship can lead to feelings of anger, betrayal, and confusion about the future.

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