Sometimes parents cannot reach an agreement regarding the custody or their children in a divorce. In Illinois, custody and visitation are referred to as parenting time and legal custody is known as parenting responsibility. If divorcing parents cannot agree on a parenting time arrangement or disagree on who should take responsibility for making important decisions on their child’s behalf, the court may assign a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the interests of a child in a custody dispute.
A guardian ad litem is an individual that is oftentimes a trained mental health professional or a lawyer, that the court appoints to investigate what solutions are in the best interests of the child. They are typically appointed in contested child custody and visitation cases to provide the court with more information about the child’s circumstances.
A GAL may weigh in on where the child should live most of the time, what contact a child should have with a parent, or who is best equipped to make decisions on behalf of the child, which may include one or both parents. Depending on what is directed by the court order, a GAL may be asked to report on the overall situation and offer a custody recommendation or their role may be limited to investigating a few specific issues.
The best interests of the child are first and foremost in a disputed custody case and the GAL’s recommendation should strive to protect the child’s right to continue a relationship with both parents when possible factoring in the child’s age, the existing relationship with each parent, the stability of the home environments, and each parent’s ability to care for the child among other considerations.
In cases where the parent does not agree with the GAL’s point of view, they are encouraged to communicate their concerns with the GAL or, if communication breaks down, to work with their attorney to make the court aware that the child’s best interests are not being served.
Within the general provisions of the Order, a GAL is required to inform the court when his or her recommendation is not in sync with a child’s wishes. To protect privacy, the report provided by the GAL is sealed so that only the parties to the custody dispute and the court can access the information. Cooperation with the GAL is required by law and it is important that a parent not exercise undue influence over your child to gain advantage during the GAL evaluation.
Contact an Experienced Illinois Child Custody Dispute Lawyer
If you have questions regarding an Illinois child custody matter, contact Libertyville, Illinois child custody dispute lawyer Ronald L. Bell and Associates PC for immediate assistance. We have helped many clients successfully resolve child custody issues before they escalate to trial, however, when child custody disputes do go to court, we are prepared to fight for what is in the best interests of your child. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side when issues of custody arise in a divorce. Contact our offices today at 847-495-6000 for more information.