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The Purpose of Guardian Ad Litems in Child-Involved Cases

 Posted on August 06, 2021 in Child Custody

IL family lawyerDuring a case regarding child custody, a child may be appointed a guardian ad litem (GAL). GALs are court-appointed volunteer attorneys with legal or specially trained medical health experience. While some judges assign GALs to every case involving a child, other judges reserve this resource until requested by one of the involved parties. Certain circumstances that may benefit from a GAL include child custody, adoptions, child support, and the emancipation of a minor.

The main goal of GALs is to represent a minor’s best interests. The best interest of the child is the standard that must be used by both the GAL and the courts to make decisions regarding the child’s future living arrangements and parent relationships. This standard includes elements such as the child’s age, current relationship with their parents, and the stability of each parent’s living arrangements.

Each jurisdiction has its own requirements that determine when a GAL can and should be appointed as well as the GAL’s minimum qualifications and payment. The effectiveness and quality of a GAL depend on the jurisdiction’s available funding and regulations.

Responsibilities and Limitations of a Guardian Ad Litem

The representative aims to establish an accurate understanding of the child’s situation and their parents’ lives, developing an understanding of the relationships shared amongst the parents, siblings, and extended family members. The GAL even has the option to conduct an unannounced home study and interview the parents and child. The GAL will then make recommendations regarding decisions such as how much contact the child should have with each parent if the child is suffering any harm from a parent’s substance abuse, and where the child should spend most of their time.

There are strict guidelines that guardian ad litem must abide by when representing their ward. For instance, a GAL must reveal if their recommendation was significantly different from the child’s preferences. Additionally, most of these cases require that the GAL’s report be kept confidential. It is also possible for the court to issue a “limited-purpose appointment” that restricts what the GAL looks into and provides evidence for.

It is essential for all involved parties to be aware of the GAL’s true role and know that what they say to the representative could severely impact their case. The GAL should be considered a secondary judge who will form an opinion on what is best for the child, not the parents.

Contact Our Wheaton, IL Family Law Attorneys

Guardian ad litems are very important when deciding what is best for a child. While parents often believe they know exactly what is suitable for their child, their judgment can be clouded. Children need advocates who have ample experience dealing with these cases and who can face the circumstances with a professional, unbiased opinion.

If you are going through a child custody dispute, it is paramount that you understand your responsibilities and rights as a parent. At Stock, Carlson & Duff, LLC, we can provide guidance in coordinating a healthy arrangement favorable to both you and your child. Contact our DuPage County family law attorneys today to set up a confidential consultation by calling 630-665-2500.




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