Getting a divorce in Illinois is an emotional experience that can have a profound effect on all parties involved, including of course the divorcing couple and any children that they may have together. While some parents are able to work peacefully together to determine what a time-sharing agreement will look like when the divorce is finalized, others are not, and reaching a custody decision may prove very difficult and contentious. In many cases, a guardian ad litem will be brought in – here’s what you need to know:
What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?
Also referred to simply as a GAL, a guardian ad litem is an attorney who is responsible for representing parties’ children in a divorce. Essentially, the job of the GAL is to find out as much as possible about the child’s living situation and the child’s best interests, and then make a recommendation to the court about parenting time and decision-making based on investigations. Again, the GAL is responsible for representing the child, and does not work for either parent. The biggest difference between a GAL and a child representative is that the former can be called as a witness to provide testimony.
When Are GALs Appointed in Cases Involving Children?
If you and your spouse work together to form an agreement regarding the custody, or decision-making, of your child and visitation, or parenting time time, with your child and present this to the court together, it is likely that the judge will approve the proposed agreement, and that a GAL will not be necessary in your case. However, if you and your spouse need to go to court to reach a resolution, the chances of a GAL being assigned are much higher.
Some family court judges will assign a GAL in nearly every case, whereas others will only do so when requested or when circumstances seem to warrant it. If a GAL as not been assigned to your case, you may request one from the court. The law regarding the appointment of a GAL is found in 750 ILCS 5/506.
Who will pay for a guardian ad litem depends upon the circumstances of the case. In some cases, the court may order that both parents pay for the GAL and split costs, or that the costs be paid by the marital estate. If parents cannot afford GAL fees, a public guardian may be appointed, and fees will be based on a sliding scale based on financial ability.
Do You Need a GAL in Your Case?
Asking the court to appoint a GAL to your case is a huge decision and may have advantages and disadvantages. You may want a GAL if there is clear evidence that your spouse being awarded custody would be detrimental to your child, and you believe that a GAL’s investigations would uncover this evidence and therefore help you get custody of your child. However, it is important to remember that the testimony of a GAL can be very influential, and if a GAL does not think that a child remaining in your custody is within the child’s best interests, this could have a negative effect on the outcome of your case.
If you’re unsure of whether you need a GAL and are worried about losing custody of your child, call our law firm today. Our Naperville child custody attorneys at the offices of Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. are here to represent you and advocate for your and your child’s best interests. Reach us today for your initial consultation.