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Why Do I Need a Guardian Ad Litem?

whats-in-a-parenting-plan

If you’re in the process of divorcing or planning for divorce, you may need a guardian ad litem. This is just a fancy way of saying that your children will have an independent professional who represents your children’s best interests.

It’s important to know what a guardian ad litem is, what he or she will do in your case, and how to manage your relationship with him or her. After all, it’s in your best interest to work with this attorney rather than make his or her job more difficult.

So, What is a Guardian ad Litem?

As we briefly mentioned above, a guardian ad litem (GAL) is a person who serves as an independent professional for the children. Typically, this person is an attorney, although that isn’t always the case. If you’re getting divorced in DuPage, Kane or Kendall counties, your GAL will almost always be an attorney.

This person is brought in not as the child’s attorney, per se, but as an attorney that evaluates a family’s living situation. Then, the GAL makes recommendations to the judge based on his or her investigation regarding what is best for the children. Keep in mind that the GAL is not an attorney for either of the parties. They only represent the children.

GALs will do a lot once they’re involved in a case, but the process generally involves:

  • Speaking to the children
  • Visiting the children at home
  • Speaking with any therapists or other healthcare professionals for the children
  • Making a report of finds to present to the judge

Remember, a GAL’s recommendations to the court are not necessarily what a judge will order. However, judges do give a lot of weight to GAL recommendations.

When Does a Guardian ad Litem Get Involved?

Just because you’re getting divorced and have children doesn’t mean that you’ll have a GAL. GALs are appointed when necessary. Typically, this is if there are child-related issues, like when the parties don’t agree on parenting time.

GALs can be appointed on the judge’s recommendation or by a motion by one of the parties. The entire point is that when the parties can’t or don’t agree on important issues, the GAL will make recommendations for the children. After all, the children are the most important concern for the court.

It’s also worth noting that a GAL isn’t free. They are an independent attorney and are paid for their services. Just know that GALs are paid a retainer fee and then are typically paid 50/50 by the parties. Of course, if there is a large income discrepancy, the judge may change how the parties are to pay for the GAL.

How to Work With Your GAL

The most important thing to remember is that a GAL works for the children, not you. It isn’t your job to show that you’re the best parent or the better parent. It’s your job to answer a GAL’s questions honestly and to do everything with your children’s best interests in mind. It’s best to be open and honest up-front – that way your GAL will know that you care about your kids rather than making yourself look good (or your former spouse look bad).

On the flip side, you never want to coach your children. Don’t tell your children to speak poorly about your spouse or to make you look good. More often than not, GALs can tell when children have been coached. This might mean that you receive less parenting time because you used underhanded tactics during the process.

The Bottom Line About Guardian ad Litems and Divorce

Remember, just because you’re getting divorced doesn’t mean you’ll have a guardian ad litem. If you end up at an impasse with your former spouse about child-related issues, you should expect one. And if that happens, follow the above advice and you have nothing to worry about.

If you’re thinking about getting divorced in Naperville, Wheaton, or the surrounding area, Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. can help! Larry has been practicing family law for almost four decades and can answer any questions you may have about guardian ad litems or otherwise.

Please call us at 630-470-9990 to speak to Larry directly, or use our convenient contact form and we will be in touch with you shortly.

Concentrated on Family Law

Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. is a law firm concentrating solely on family law and has served clients in DuPage, Will, Kane, and Kendall counties for over 35 years.

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About Attorney Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd.

Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. is a law firm concentrating solely on family law and has served clients in DuPage, Will, Kane, and Kendall counties for over 35 years.

We continue to work with clients in Naperville, Wheaton, Lisle, Oswego, Downers Grove, and the surrounding areas to provide one-on-one support and attention that will help you through this difficult time.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at any time. We look forward to offering our expertise and support to you throughout your case and after.