As a guardian ad litem and child representative, it is my responsibility to ensure children are protected and their best interests are looked after
Getting a divorce affects the whole family and when there are children involved, there can be a greater chance of disagreement between you and your partner. There are a multitude of issues that you will need to work out like: parentage, support, custody, visitation, allocation of parental responsibilities, education, property interest, and the general welfare of a minor or dependent child. When you, your attorney, and your partner and their attorney are struggling to resolve these issues, Illinois Courts will appoint a guardian ad litem or child representative for your case.
The responsibilities of a GAL / CR
A guardian ad litem and child representative are both third parties that are independent of you, your partner, and your attorneys. Again, their only interest is the child. There are some nuanced differences between the guardian ad litem and child representative.
- Guardian ad litem: Typically a guardian ad litem is appointed when there are younger children involved in the case. They are able to investigate the facts of the case, interview the parents and children, and visit the homes to observe and gain more insight into the family. Once they have done so, they report back to the court, either in a written summary or testimony, giving their opinion about what is in the child’s best interest. Because of their role, they are often considered the “eyes and ears” of the court.
- Child representative: When children are older and better able to articulate their wants and needs, the courts may appoint a child representative. They can also interview the parents and children and investigate the facts of the case. A key difference between a child representative and guardian ad litem is that when court appearances occur, a child representative is able to argue on behalf of the child and present evidence. They do not submit a report or provide testimony.
Both a guardian ad litem and child representative are required to have special training and certification, which I have. In my almost two decade long career, numerous judges have entrusted me to be a zealous advocate for children in many cases and continue to seek out my services.
Tips for clients who have a GAL / CR appointed to their case
First and foremost, don’t panic. This appointment is not an indictment on your ability to parent. It is just another way for the courts to make sure that a child’s best interests are not forgetting during the divorce process. As a parent, you want what is best for your children. The guardian ad litem and child representative are attorneys who are committed to doing what is best for children. Therefore, it is better to view them as an ally, rather than an adversary.
Of course, the GAL / CR will not be beholden to what you or your partner want. They do not work for you or your partner. However, it is best to keep communication with them open and honest and provide the information they need. In the end, you want what is best for your child and providing all relevant information and telling the truth will ensure that the GAL / CR is able to make the most informed decision.
If you have had a guardian ad litem or child representative appointed to your case and you are concerned, please contact me at Coleman Law, PC. With my experience, I can clearly explain how the GAL or CR will proceed and work with you to put your best foot forward.