In this article, you will discover:
- What to know about Guardian Ad Litems in Illinois
- When you may want to request a Guardian Ad Litem
The guardian ad litem is supposedly an extension of the legal court, an attorney whose purpose is really to investigate. So, the judge will appoint a GAL when it requires some more investigations surrounding the parents in a custody case, which involves some serious allegations.
The judge would like to go and see the kids’ homes, talk to the parents in their environment, look at medical records, school records, and just get a better understanding of the facts. But the judges don’t have time for that. Not only is that impractical, but I think a judge would be deemed as partial if they go to a client’s house. So, they appoint a GAL who is like the hand of the judge. They go out, do those investigations, and then write a report with their recommendations about what parent should have custody and authority to make decisions for the child. So, ultimately, the purpose of the Guardian Ad Litem is to write a report that concludes with the recommendations as to that they believe will protect the child’s interests as much as possible.
They are an attorney, but not an attorney in that case, which means practically speaking, you can call the guardian ad litem as a witness and have them testify as to their report. So, if we are trying to attack the recommendations, we would call the GAL to testify about what was included in the investigation and why they came to the conclusions they did. So, you are allowed to ask those things and try to chip away a little bit at the GAL’s credibility with the recommendations.
When It May Be Appropriate To Request A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)?
Sometimes the question of timing is irrelevant because, in Cook County, a process is supposed to be followed. The majority of judges do, but not all follow that process. This process involves ordering the parents to see a mediator in mediation. Mediation is either a hit or a miss, and if the mediator is great then we get things done, we draft the allocating judgment, the parenting plan, they sign it, and they are done. They don’t have to deal with having a GAL in place, but other judges, if the mediator’s report comes back and says we didn’t resolve all issues or even one issue, the judge just orders that a GAL be appointed right then and there. The judge will see you in three to six months so the GAL can conduct their investigations. So you don’t get a lot of choice in that.
You are told when you have the GAL, so it doesn’t matter when it is appropriate. Now, let’s say it’s post-decree, and mediation has not worked in the past, so you skip mediation. Then, you can file a motion to request a GAL be appointed to investigate a very specific issue regarding your child. There must be a pleading pending that deals with significant decision-making or parenting time allocation.
You can’t first motion for a GAL and then file a petition to modify custody, visitation, or something like that. That’d be the cart before the horse. You have to have that motion pending. If the matter has been off call for two or three years, and suddenly I, as an attorney, get a phone call from Dad saying Mom’s new boyfriend hit my son with a ball, and we need to get a GAL to investigate this guy, I would have to file an emergency motion to suspend parenting time with Mom when that boyfriend is around and then file a motion to appoint a GAL at that point. Maybe the judge at the hearing for that emergency motion might recommend or order a GAL to be appointed right there without any formal pleading filed. But in that case, that’s when it would be appropriate to ask for a GAL. But to file a motion for the GAL, I first have to file that emergency motion, and that’s how you would be able to appoint or request the judge appoint them.
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