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If you are involved in a disputed child custody or visitation case in Illinois, odds are there will be a Guardian ad Litem appointed for your child.
The Guardian ad Litem or "GAL" is a Court appointed attorney who will investigate the claims that you (or any other parent/interested party) make regarding the child's custody and visitation, as well as accusations of physical or mental abuse of your child by a parent or third-party.
Listed below are important facts to keep in mind when you speak to the Guardian ad Litem.
1. You cannot fire the Guardian ad Litem.
He or she is not your employee even though you may have to pay attorney’s fees to the Guardian ad Litem. The Guardian is employed by the court.
2. Tell the Truth.
Tell the truth, even if it hurts. If the Guardian ad Litem discovers that you were lying, your credibility will be diminished and you will likely have a difficult time reestablishing trust going forward. Remember once a
liar always a liar.
3. The Guardian ad Litem in Your Case Has Tremendous Power.
Judges listen to the Guardian ad Litem in your case. Although they are not bound to do so, Illinois Judges generally follow the recommendation of the Guardian ad Litem.
Remember the Guardian ad Litem has tremendous power over you and your children. Whether you like it or not, the opinion of the Guardian ad Litem may be adopted by the Court. Do not react with anger or frustration, even if the Guardian ad Litem says things that you do not like.
4. Pay the Guardian ad Litem’s Bill.
Even if you do not like the opinions expressed, you need to pay the Guardian ad Litem's bill if you ever expect them to be unbiased with you. Attorneys work by the hour in their line of work, including your Guardian ad Litem. You need to pay the bill if you expect the Guardian ad Litem to make a fair and unbiased recommendation or assessment in your case. Do not expect attention or fairness from the Guardian with no payment.
5. Do Not Argue with the Guardian ad Litem.
If he or she says something you do not like or agree with you should make a note about it and state your position, but do not get angry. Likewise, engage in professional behavior with your Guardian ad Litem and try not to miss/cancel appointments with them.
6. Be Prepared for Your Guardian ad Litem's Pointed Questions.
Most Guardian ad Litems are fair-minded lawyers who will listen to you and provide a fair assessment of your case. With that in mind, the Guardian may ask you pointed questions just to see your reaction. An example of one of these questions could be, "Is there anything good that you can say about your soon to be ex-spouse or the father of your child?" The best advice is to say at least one good thing. The principal here is that just because the Guardian ad Litem is asking a pointed question does not mean he or she has already made up their mind against you. This is a test that you can pass with flying colors if you stop to think and say the right things.
7. Come to the Meeting with the Guardian ad Litem Prepared.
Make an outline of the things you want to say and the point you want to get across. A good divorce or custody lawyer can prepare you in advance.
8. To Do Well with the Guardian ad Litem Be a Good Parent.
Be concerned about the welfare of your children. Be a good provider and make sure you pay child support, if ordered. Be involved in the activities your children participate in and go to any Parent/Teacher meetings. The Guardian ad Litem may ask you if you know the names of your children’s teachers? It is a good idea to know those teachers and have a good relationship with them so that they know you. The Guardian ad Litem will interview your children's teachers and see if you ever spoke to them or went to parent teacher conferences. Being involved as a parent will always benefit your children and may well be the turning point in the child custody case.
9. Do Not Tell Your Children What to Say to the Guardian ad Litem.
In most cases, the Guardian ad Litem will interview your children and oftentimes the Guardian will speak to them independently. For some parents, it can be an overwhelming temptation to tell the child what to say. Some examples of this include telling your children to “Tell the Guardian you want to live with me" or "Tell the Guardian that your father makes you upset when he takes you for his parenting times." These kinds of statements harm your child, and the Guardian ad Litem and/or the Judge will punish you for trying to persuade your child if they find out. In general, if you want to do your children a favor, do not involve them in your divorce case at all and keep them out of your custody case.
10. Make Your Own Notes After You Have Met with the Guardian ad Litem.
Make notes of what questions you were asked and what you answered. This will give your lawyer insight into what the Guardian is concerned about and if the Guardian fails to make note of your concerns you can point this out later on, perhaps even at a custody or visitation trial.
11. Follow up with Your Meeting with the Guardian ad Litem.
You can always send additional information in order to stay in touch. If things change, you want the Guardian ad Litem to know that. If the other parent is discussing the case with the children or telling them what to do or say, the Guardian ad Litem needs to know this immediately.
Contact an Attorney
Child custody cases can be a stressful experience, and working with a Guardian ad Litem can be difficult. Having lawyers on your side who have experience with these matters will go a long way towards ensuring that your case goes as smooth as possible. Contact the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio today if you are interested in discussing your situation with a DuPage County, IL divorce attorney. Schedule your free consolation by calling 630-920-8855 today.
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