Child-related legal matters of any type can be extremely challenging, especially those that must be addressed in divorce. The distrust and acrimony between the parents can easily spill over into child custody and support proceedings, often creating a great deal of difficulty for the judge responsible for the case. The court, however, has been granted the authority to appoint an attorney to assist in any child-related cases, whose primary role is to objectively determine that which is in the child’s best interest. An appointed attorney may serve in one of several statutorily defined roles, including that of guardian ad litem.
When Is a Guardian ad Litem Used?
A guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court in many situations, but is frequently utilized when parents involved in a child-related matter have difficulty identifying their child’s true best interests. The court may recognize such a need based on allegations of questionable judgment by either parent, suspected abuse, or other concerns. In addition, either party may request that a guardian ad litem be appointed so that a more neutral observer can help consider the child’s well-being throughout the process and into the future.
The Role of the Guardian ad Litem
In order to be appointed as guardian ad litem, an attorney must be appropriately trained and qualified to serve in such a capacity. However, he or she is not expected to simply act as legal counsel; instead the guardian ad litem acts as an extension of the court and an independent witness.
As an extension of the court, the guardian ad litem is granted the power of investigation to determine the child’s true best interests. He or she is expected to speak with each parent, the child, and any other relevant parties, in addition to reviewing the home situation of each parent, medical records, and any other information that would help create a full understanding of the circumstances. Based on this investigation, the guardian ad litem prepares a recommendation for the court as to what type of custody arrangement or other resolution would best serve the child’s needs.
The recommendation of the guardian ad litem is made available to both parties and submitted to the court, similar to the testimony of an expert witness. The report is subject to cross-examination by any other party to the case. Due to the guardian ad litem’s qualifications and the court’s recognition of the need for his or her services, the recommendation is typically given significant weight and consideration in the court’s final decision.
What You Can Do to Help
It may seem like an invasion of your privacy to have a guardian ad litem asking you questions about your child and your life. Keep in mind, however, that he or she has been required to do so by the court, and has your child’s best interests in mind. Cooperating with the requests of a guardian ad litem can help demonstrate your commitment to your child, no matter the difficulty.
If you are involved in a child-related legal matter and a guardian ad litem has been appointed by the court, we can help you better understand the situation. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney today to schedule a free consultation. We are prepared to answer your questions and work with you in protecting your rights throughout the process.