Understanding the Guardian ad Litem Role in Illinois

Rolling Meadows IL family lawyerAlthough parents typically want what is best for their child, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, during hostile or combative child custody battles in Illinois, parents often strongly disagree about which of them deserves parenting time. Parents may make accusations of mistreatment or abuse, or attempt to estrange a child from the other parent.

Judges, who are ultimately responsible for applying Illinois law and making decisions in custody battles, often need more information than the biased pictures they get from a child’s parents and their attorneys. In situations like this, Illinois courts will often appoint a special representative to seek out what is in the child’s best interests. This representative is called a guardian ad litem.

Investigating a Child’s Best Interests

“Ad litem” is a Latin legal term used to refer to a court-appointed representative of an individual, such as a child or incapacitated adult, who cannot represent themself. In Illinois, guardians ad litem are always lawyers, but not just any lawyer can be a guardian ad litem. Lawyers who want to become a guardian ad litem must take special training preparing them for the rigors of the role and must continue to take training throughout their career.

Sometimes a guardian ad litem is appointed by a judge, and sometimes a parent will request that a guardian ad litem be brought into the custody evaluation. Regardless of how they come to be there, guardians ad litem do not work on behalf of parents or a judge. Their only job is to discover what is in the best interests of a child and then communicate that in a report.

This means they will interview parents, siblings, family members, teachers, or anyone else who can contribute to a full picture of a child’s living situation with either parent. They will work carefully with the child to get his or her opinions and preferences. They will carefully investigate claims of abuse, working with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) when appropriate. All of this information will be compiled into an objective report, which will be presented before the court. Judges and the lawyers for each parent may examine the guardian ad litem concerning the findings of their report, asking questions and exploring any inconsistencies, and the judge will consider the contents of the report when deciding on the case.

Contact a Rolling Meadows, IL Family Law Attorney

Custody battles can be hostile and intimidating, but you do not have to go through them alone. If you have questions about a guardian ad litem who has been appointed to your case, or if you are wondering whether a guardian ad litem might benefit your child, contact a Cook County family law attorney. Call Cosley Law Office today at 847-253-3100 for a free and confidential consultation.



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