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When is a Guardian Ad Litem Necessary?

 Posted on October 24, 2023 in Family Law

Kane County family lawyerThe goal of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is to act as a legal advocate on behalf of a ward. The purpose is to protect the ward’s best interests during a court case. A GAL may be necessary in cases where a judge requires information on a disabled or incapacitated child or adult to ensure their best interests in the final decision of a court case. A GAL can be a volunteer, a mental health professional, or a lawyer with experience in helping to determine a child’s best interests.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem Authorized to Do?

Unlike a guardian, a GAL does not have legal authority over a ward. They are only able to make recommendations to the judge on a child’s behalf. A GAL’s job is to help a judge decide what is in a child’s best interest when it comes to their well-being in cases regarding issues like the allocation of parental responsibilities.

In the allocation of parental responsibility cases, the GAL will often interview both parents and the child to gauge their well-being and the parent-child relationship. The Guardian ad Litem will also review a child’s medical, school, and other records and make home visits when appropriate. They may even interview third-party experts, such as doctors, other relatives, teachers, and psychologists, to procure additional notes to recommend to the judge.

A GAL will often look for:

  • Stability within the home
  • How well do the parents cooperate
  • Parent’s mental health
  • Any history of crime, substance abuse, or violence perpetrated by the parents

The GAL does not represent your child but can be called upon as a witness in court. Other cases that may involve a GAL include:

  • Divorce cases
  • Juvenile court child protection cases
  • Adult guardianship cases
  • Adoption cases

The Appointing of a Guardian Ad Litem

GALs are not present in every court case and must be requested by one of the parties or a judge to attend. Once a GAL is appointed, they must attend every court date. The fees for a GAL are submitted to the court, and a judge will determine if the fees are reasonable. The judge can choose to have one or both parents pay the fees. GALs are paid by the hour and usually have rates that range between $75 and $250 per hour.

A GAL can be removed from a case if one party believes they are:

  • Being unfairly biased
  • Behaving inappropriately or unprofessionally
  • Appear incompetent within the role

The parent must petition for the GAL’s removal and state their reasoning. A court can then permit or deny the petition if they feel the reasoning is or is not sound. A new GAL can be appointed if the court removes the current one in favor of the petition.

Contact a Kane County, IL Family Lawyer

Guardians ad Litem are specially trained individuals appointed by the court to conduct investigations on the well-being of those who cannot advocate for themselves. At Serrano Hanson, the courts recognize our skilled Geneva, IL family law attorneys as Guardians ad Litem. We can serve as valuable resources to clients in need of a GAL. Contact our office at 630-844-8781 to speak with an attorney with in-depth knowledge of these issues.

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