The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem

Naperville Family Law Attorneys

The role of a guardian ad litem is to represent the best interests of a child whose parents are going through a divorce. In a divorce, each partner retains his or her own lawyer to represent his or her interests. The couple’s child has interests of his or her own, which include a safe, nurturing environment, academic support and opportunities to thrive, personal needs such as medical care and social engagement, and a parenting time schedule that allows him or her to build and maintain a high quality relationship with each parent. In some cases, the court deems it necessary for an individual to be assigned to a divorce case to determine exactly what type of parenting arrangement would be in the child’s best interest and communicate this to the court to aid in its ruling. In Illinois, the court may require that one or both of the divorcing partners pay the guardian ad litem’s fee.

A guardian ad litem is not a child’s attorney. Although individuals who take on this role often are attorneys, a guardian ad litem is not brought in to negotiate with the court on the child’s behalf. Nor is he or she brought in to make explicit orders regarding a child’s parenting time arrangement. In this role, a guardian ad litem is simply an evaluator who makes recommendations to the court about what he or she thinks would create the most nurturing, healthy environment for the child after the couple’s divorce.

Working with a Guardian Ad Litem

As a parent, the most important thing to remember if your child is assigned a guardian ad litem is not to interfere with the guardian ad litem’s job. Do not try to convince him or her that you are the better parent or tell lies about your former partner’s parenting abilities or unsavory behavior. Also, do not coach your child to speak or behave in a way that casts you as the superior parent – the guardian ad litem has worked with many children in the past and can see right through this ruse. In fact, any attempt to influence the guardian ad litem’s evaluation of your child’s life and relationship with each parent will only backfire, potentially leading to a parenting time or responsibilities agreement that gives your former partner more time with your child or a greater share of the parenting responsibilities.

Instead, cooperate with the guardian ad litem. In addition to interviewing your child, the guardian ad litem will interview you and your former partner. Be open and honest in your responses to his or her questions. Be willing to talk about your relationship with your child, your daily routine with him or her, and your child’s specific academic, medical, and personal needs. If you are unsure about a question, ask for clarification and if you do not have an answer to one, find out an answer or simply state that you honestly do not know. In any case, do not lie to the guardian ad litem.

What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Look For?

A guardian ad litem looks at the factors present in each parent’s household to determine what would be the best setup for their child. He or she may consider any or all of the following:

  • Who lives in each household;
  • The child’s access to medical care in each household;
  • Each parent’s income and assets;
  • The child’s academic opportunities present in each household;
  • The child’s relationship with each parent;
  • Each parent’s willingness to cooperate with the court; and
  • If the child is old enough to articulate a preference for one home or another, how this preference fits with the other factors present. In other words, the guardian ad litem examines each household to determine if upholding the child’s wishes are in his or her best interest or if the child would be better served by another arrangement.

Work with Our Team of Naperville Divorce Attorneys

If you are a parent who is considering filing for divorce in Illinois or who is already engrossed in the divorce process, a guardian ad litem may be assigned to your case. It is normal to feel uneasy about this individual interacting so closely with your child and your family, but rest assured that they are there for your child’s benefit. To discuss this and other aspects of the divorce process, contact an experienced Naperville divorce lawyer. Contact our team at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today to set up your initial legal consultation in our office. We can answer any questions you have and guide you through the processes of divorce and parenting post-divorce.