What is a Guardian ad Litem and How Will This Affect My Case?

In the majority of family law cases, parents are able to reach an agreement on a parenting plan which serves the children’s best interest. Unfortunately, sometimes this is not possible and a Guardian ad Litem must be appointed to assist the Court to determine the children’s best interest. A Guardian ad Litem may be appointed in any case where the Court needs to investigate the best interests of a child.

A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an attorney with special training that the Court appoints to help resolve disputes involving parenting time and/or allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as visitation and/or custody). Either parent may request that the Court appoint a GAL or the Court may appoint a GAL on its own.

The GAL investigates the facts of your case and reviews the pleadings filed by both parents, the police reports, medical records, and school records. In addition, a GAL may interview the parents, the children (if age appropriate), and any other person who may be helpful in their investigation such as extended family members, teachers, coaches, doctors or anyone else who may be familiar with the issues in dispute. After completing an investigation, the GAL makes recommendations to the Court with regard to any child-related issues.

Besides a GAL the Court may appoint a Child Representative or attorney for the child in addition to or in lieu of a GAL. A Child Representative has the same powers as a GAL, but may also participate in the litigation of the case by filing pleadings or calling witnesses. The Child Representative does not render an opinion, recommendation, or report to the Court. An attorney for a child provides independent legal counsel for that child or children. The attorney owes the same duties of loyalty, and confidentiality that an adult client is due.

The attorneys at Hammer Serna & Quinn are experienced in helping clients navigate contested custody matters where a GAL has been appointed. Vanessa L. Hammer is approved to serve as a Guardian ad Litem in Cook and DuPage Counties. The litigation experience and Guardian ad Litem training of the attorneys at Hammer Serna & Quinn allows them to give an informed perspective and provide legal evidence in matters involving a GAL.

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