When parents with minor children divorce in Illinois, the court asks them to submit a mutually agreed parenting plan that includes an allocation of parenting time and decision-making responsibility. The court will approve that plan as long as it appears to be in the best interests of the children. However, if the parents cannot agree, the court will have to determine the parenting plan. To ensure that the court has enough information to make decisions in the best interests of the children, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to conduct an investigation and report back to the court. A parent may also ask the court to appoint a GAL if they believe that the court needs to hear an independent perspective on certain matters, e.g., a child’s special needs or the fitness of a parent to care for a child.
A guardian ad litem is an independent attorney who acts as an investigative arm for the court. The GAL does not represent the wishes of either parent nor the wishes of the children. Rather, their goal is to help the court make decisions that are in the best interests of the children. While the court will listen to each parent’s individual perspective, the GAL’s perspective will be given substantial weight as a trusted representative of the court.
The GAL’s investigation will generally include:
Interviewing parents, children, and other people who can provide relevant information such as teachers, caregivers, and grandparents.
Visiting the home of each parent.
Reviewing relevant documents such as court filings and documents that a parent provides to corroborate their concerns, such as medical or school records that describe a child’s special needs.
The GAL is required to submit to the court a report of their findings and recommendations for the allocation of parenting time and parental decision-making authority. Their recommendations are to be based on the best interests of children. The attorneys for each parent may cross-examine the GAL regarding the report.
If a guardian ad litem has been appointed as part of your divorce proceeding (or as part of a separate proceeding involving allocation of parenting responsibilities or parent relocation with a child), be sure to follow the advice of your attorney when interacting with the GAL. If you need a reliable Lombard divorce attorney, call Mevorah Law Offices LLC at 630-932-9100 for a free consultation.
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