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"What should I expect when a Guardian Ad Litem has been appointed by the Judge in my child custody case?"
A Guardian Ad Litem or "GAL" is a lawyer who is selected by an Illinois Court and appointed in your custody or visitation case to make an investigation as to what custody or visitation arrangements are in the best interests of your child.
While the Judge in your custody case will ultimately make the decision as to who should have custody of your child, that Judge has no independent knowledge of the facts of your case. A Judge will frequently appoint a lawyer to find out the basic facts and report back to the Court. The lawyer is appointed as a Guardian Ad Litem.
A Guardian Ad Litem role is defined by Illinois law. A Guardian Ad Litem's role in simplest terms is to conduct an investigation and give an opinion and recommendation to the Judge as to who should have custody, whether joint or sole custody should be Order and what visitation the other parent should receive.
Once appointed by court order, the GAL has two principal duties. The first is to determine the best interests of your child. The second duty is to investigate and report to the Court on all matters the GAL deems relevant to the best interests of your child while your custody case is going on. The GAL will then give his or her opinion to the Judge on these matters. While the Judge does not have to follow the GAL's recommendations, the Judge usually does follow them.
As soon as the Guardian Ad Litem is appointed the GAL will frequently try to identify first what issues their are between the parents.
Frequently custody is an issue, sometimes visitation or parenting time, the time each parent spends with the child is an issue. Sometimes at issue is whether one parent is preparing to move with the child outside the State of Illinois or outside of the school district or County where the other parent lives.
A Guardian ad Litem's investigation often requires looking into private matters of the parents and the minor child. The GAL may ask about your family's history, what brought you to the present disputes, what is currently going on, and what can be forecasted for the future with respect to your child's needs and the present or ongoing issues between you and the other parent.
Sometimes, but not always, it is additionally necessary to involve third parties, such as teachers, neighbors and doctors. In fact, you may be asked to sign releases for medical and school related records. The ultimate goal of the GAL's investigation is to help to bring about a quick and fair resolution of all of the issues involving your child.
Illinois Supreme Court Rules apply to Guardian ad Litem appointments. Three significant points are (1) the GAL must file a written Appearance with the Court accepting the appointment, the GAL may then receive copies of all pleadings in this matter; (2) the GAL is to be present at all Court proceedings, unless explicitly excused; and (3) both parties are responsible for the GAL's which are divided up between the parties determined by the Judge.
Usually, the Guardian Ad Litem will schedule at least one visit to the child's residence to meet and interview all those who live there and perhaps one or more visits with each parent and the child. This is commonly called a home-study.
Frequently, the Guardian Ad Litem's investigation extends to speaking with some third parties usually identified by the parents such as relatives, schoolteachers, friends of the child, neighbors, or others who may have information pertaining to the child's welfare.
Occasionally, a Guardian Ad Litem will ask for a background check perhaps including a criminal background check or even a fingerprint check the Illinois State police under the uniform conviction information act.
Remember, a Guardian Ad Litem can not only advocate a position for your child but testify as a Witness in Court as to that position.
If you have questions about your Hinsdale child custody case or a Guardian Ad Litem, contact an knowledgeable family law attorney at Martoccio & Martoccio. Call 630-920-8855 for a free consultation.