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Does My Child Need a Guardian ad Litem?

 Posted on April 10, 2024 in Divorce

Kane County, IL family lawyerA guardian ad litem means a guardian “for the legal action only.” The purpose of a guardian ad litem (GAL) is to represent the best interests of a child in a court proceeding, such as a divorce or child custody case. A court can appoint a GAL whenever it feels it is best for the child, especially if there appears to be a conflict of interest between the child and his or her parents.

In Illinois, a GAL is an attorney who has gone through special court-approved training.

When Does a Court Appoint a GAL?

Illinois law allows a court to appoint a GAL whenever it feels a child needs one. Courts will also appoint a GAL in the following circumstances:

  • If either side in the case requests that one be appointed for the child

  • If no parent or guardian of the child appears at the first hearing or any subsequent hearings

  • There has been a report of child abuse or neglect

  • The judge feels the child’s interests conflict with those of the parents

What Does a GAL Do?

Once a guardian ad litem is appointed, the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services will provide him or her with a copy of every significant event report concerning the child. This includes any reports of child abuse or neglect. 

The GAL will then conduct interviews with the child and the parties to the case, such as the child’s parents, foster parents, or caregivers. The GAL can also interview teachers, neighbors, doctors, and anyone else who can offer perspective on the child, her parents, or what her life is really like day-to-day. 

GALs are granted special authority by the state to help them investigate the child’s circumstances and decide what is best for the child. A GAL is authorized, for example, to issue subpoenas and force parties to produce documents that concern the child.

The GAL will submit a report with his or her recommendations to the court no less than 30 days before the final hearing. GALs can be cross-examined in court and asked to provide evidence that supports their recommendations. Although GALs do not have authority to make decisions in a child custody case, their recommendations can greatly influence the decisions of judges. 

Contact a Kane County, IL Family Lawyer

A GAL’s recommendations carry a lot of weight. Although courts do not need to follow them, many times they do. GALs can be very helpful advocates for a child whose interests may be at risk. If you feel that is the case, or if you feel confident that your interests are well aligned with the child’s, you may want to appoint a guardian ad litem. Consult with a qualified Geneva, Illinois family law attorney who can advise you on how to proceed. Contact the experienced attorneys at Serrano Hanson by calling 630-844-8781 today.

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