In most family law cases each parent has his or her own attorney that represents them throughout the process. A lawyer does not usually represent the children. However, in some cases, a judge may appoint a lawyer to make sure the children’s interests are protected. The legal term for this lawyer is guardian ad litem. The lawyer does not become a guardian in the sense that the child lives with him or her, but the lawyer is responsible for making recommendations to the judge about what would best for the child.
Why Does a Judge Appoint a Guardian Ad Litem?
A few judges routinely appoint guardian ad litems in almost every case. Most judges rarely appoint one. There is not a specific standard for when it is appropriate for a judge to appoint a guardian ad litem.
If there are allegations of abuse or neglect, or the custody proceeding is particularly bitter, judges are more inclined to appoint a lawyer to help protect the child's interests.
What a Guardian Ad Litem Means for You
Some parents believe that the guardian ad litem is working for them. The lawyer who is appointed only represents the child or children in the case. Moreover, the parties to the case pay for the guardian ad litem’s legal fees.
A judge can appoint a guardian ad litem even if neither parent wants one appointed. Once the judge has made this decisions, both parents have a legal obligation to cooperate with the lawyer. This includes making the child available for appointments with the lawyer and signing any needed authorizations for the lawyer to secure school or health records.
In most cases the guardian ad litem will make recommendations to the judge hearing the case about what the custody and visitation arrangement should be. The court can also appoint a custody evaluator to work with the guardian ad litem.
Every time a parent interacts with the guardian ad litem, he or she has the opportunity to demonstrate who they are as a parent. Each interaction is like a small trial where the lawyer representing the child is forming an impression of the parent's character and reasonableness. Most judges adopt the recommendations of the guardian ad litem.
If you have any questions about custody, visitation, or any other family law issue, you need to consult with a knowledgeable DuPage County family law attorney. Call Sullivan Taylor & Gumina, P.C. today at 630-665-7676 to schedule a consultation today.