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guardian ad litemIt not uncommon for child-related legal matters such as the allocation of parental responsibilities or a proposed relocation to become highly contentious. In some cases, the involved parties may find it difficult or impossible to reach an agreement that is in the child’s best interests. When parents are unable to negotiate a reasonable solution on their own or through court-ordered mediation, the court must step in and make a decision. To do so, the court must have a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding the dispute, which is not always possible to obtain from the parents in a courtroom setting. Illinois law, however, gives the court the authority to appoint a specially-trained attorney called a guardian ad litem (GAL) to conduct an investigation and make recommendations regarding the outcome of the case.

The Role of a Guardian ad Litem

When a guardian ad litem is appointed to your case, he or she does not represent you, the other parent, your child, or any other party to the case. Instead, the GAL works essentially on behalf of the court, gathering all of the relevant details about your situation. The GAL has the power to conduct a comprehensive investigation into your family’s current circumstances as well as the willingness and ability of each party to provide for the child. In most cases, a GAL will interview the child, both parents, and any other person whose input may be helpful. He or she will also visit each parent’s home and review financial records, court transcripts, and other documents that support each party’s claims or requests.

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guardian ad litem, Kane County family law attorneyDisagreements over parental responsibilities, parenting time, and any other concerns regarding children can quickly reach a stalemate. Each parent may truly want what is best for their child but have vastly different opinions about how to achieve “what is best.” According to the law, when parents cannot reach an agreement, it is up to the court to create a solution that meets the child’s needs and protects his or her well-being. When two parents are presenting conflicting opinions, though, it can be difficult for the court to determine what would constitute the best outcome. For this reason, the court may appoint an individual called a guardian ad litem to provide assistance.

Qualifications of a Guardian ad Litem

In the context of child-related legal issues, Illinois law requires a guardian ad litem to be an attorney who has undergone specific training and certification processes. A guardian ad litem, therefore, not only understands the laws related to the allocation of parental responsibilities—formerly called child custody—and parenting time, but also investigative techniques and how to evaluate a child’s family circumstances. The court, when needed, selects a guardian ad litem from a regularly-updated list of attorneys available for appointment within the appropriate county.

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