The Role of a Guardian Ad Litem in Child Custody Cases

Fighting for custody of a child can be one of the most difficult experiences in a parent’s life. Coming to terms with the end of a marriage can be hard, but trying to prove that you are a better fit to take on the responsibility as a custodial parent (parent who lives with the child) can be emotionally taxing on all involved parties. Although seeking the help of a child custody lawyer can help your cause, in some cases it may also be a good idea to seek the appointment of a guardian ad litem.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney who represents the rights of the child. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act provides certain guidelines that a guardian ad litem must follow. The GAL usually conducts his or her own investigation on the facts surrounding the case by interviewing the child, the parents, and any other witnesses. The GAL will then write a detailed report about his or her findings and make recommendations according to the best interests of the child. In some cases, the guardian ad litem may even be called to testify in court and may be cross-examined on his or her findings.

How is a Guardian Ad Litem Appointed?

A guardian ad litem can be appointed by the court in any court proceeding involving support, custody, visitation or other matters related to a minor or dependent child. The court can choose to appoint a GAL on its own accord, or either party to the proceeding can make a motion to have a GAL appointed. Depending on the case, a judge may order that one or both spouses pay the attorney’s fees for the GAL. However, if a parent cannot afford to pay the fees, the court can appoint a public GAL who will accept a sliding scale payment plan.

The Benefits of Appointing a Guardian Ad Litem

Having a guardian ad litem appointed in a child custody case can have a significant impact on the results. If you are seeking what is best for your child, then a GAL can help you achieve that and will most likely agree with you and report to the judge what they found during their investigation. Judges often place a lot of value in a GAL’s recommendations, which may benefit you greatly. In addition, if you believe that the co-parent does not have the best interests of the child in mind and is being unreasonable, the GAL will be able to see that and will report it to the judge. The co-parent may be wary of what the GAL may uncover and report to the judge, and might be more inclined to resolve the custody case with minimal conflict.

If you are seeking custody of your children in DuPage County, please contact one of our experienced DuPage County child custody attorneys at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today. We are knowledgeable in child custody law and will carefully review the facts of your case to determine the most effective way to reach a favorable outcome.