The Role of a Guardian ad Litem in Illinois

The court appoints a guardian ad litem or child representative to investigate custody and visitation situations. A GAL is a licensed attorney with special training whose focus is the child's best interests and what the child needs. After their investigation, they present their findings to the court and make suggestions on how the case should be decided.

What Is a Guardian ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney appointed to represent the best interests of the child. They can do this for cases involving children such as child custody, child support, or divorce cases.

The GAL’s job is to investigate the situation and speak with the parties involved. They look to understand both the current and future living situations. The investigation is how they find what is in the child’s best interest.

Once they fully understand the situation, they give their recommendation to the court. The court does not have to follow the guardian ad litem’s recommendation, but they often do.

When to Get a Guardian ad Litem

A guardian ad litem is a great addition to any contentious case involving a child. Their sole purpose is to figure out what is best for the child. So, if you are confident that what you want aligns with the child's best interest, then a GAL will help your case.

Either party in a case can request a guardian ad litem. If neither party requests it, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. They often do this when they see that the parents are unable to agree on the custody and placement of their child. But, there are some instances where the court appoints a guardian ad litem at the beginning of a case.

The court automatically appoints a GAL when:

  • No parent or guardian appears at the first or any hearings.
  • There is a report of child abuse or neglect.
  • There is a conflict of interest between the minor and their parents.
  • It is in the best interests of the child to have a GAL.[1]

Once a guardian ad litem starts working on a case, it's a good idea to get an attorney if you don't already have one.

For Immediate help with your family law case or answering any questions please call (312) 757-8082 now!

The GAL's Process in Custody Cases

Each GAL’s process is different because there isn’t an exact process outlined in Illinois’s laws. However, each GAL is trained for their position, so there is consistency between cases.

Under Illinois law, a guardian ad litem must meet with all the involved parties. They also investigate the facts of the case, encourage an agreement, and use alternative forms of dispute resolution. If a GAL doesn’t contact you right away, you should reach out to them.

To best prepare yourself for the guardian ad litem in your case, speak with an attorney from Sterling Hughes. Attorneys can prepare you for a guardian ad litem and work to make sure a guardian ad litem is a positive addition to your case.

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do in Illinois?

A guardian ad litem will investigate the situation and present their findings to the court. They investigate the case by meeting with the parties involved, interviewing them on the facts of the case, and reading through court documents. A GAL even has the ability to issue subpoenas as part of their investigation.

For simpler cases, they may be able to make a decision after only a few meetings. For other cases, they will need to speak with the child and parents multiple times.

Are you ready to move forward? Call (312) 757-8082 to schedule a strategy session with one of our attorneys.

Considerations

How Much Does a Guardian ad Litem Cost?

The cost of a guardian ad litem generally ranges between $75 to $250 per hour.

The GAL’s invoice for their fees is first sent to the court. The court checks over it to make sure the services were reasonable and necessary. Once the court approves the invoice, it is sent to the parents for payment.[2]

If one party can't pay, they can request the other party to pay the full amount. If neither party can pay, they can file to have the fee waived.

Who Pays for the Guardian ad Litem in an Illinois Child Custody Case?

Under Illinois statutes, a guardian ad litem is paid for by one or both parents, the marital estate, or the child’s separate estate. The cost is often split between the parents, but if one parent is wealthier than the other, the cost doesn’t have to be split evenly. Ultimately, the decision is up to the judge in the case.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of guardian ad litems?

The role of a guardian ad litem is to find the best interests of the child and then represent those interests in court. They act as the eyes and ears of the court to better understand the circumstances of the case.

Are guardian ad litems good or bad?

The guardian ad litem will be good for your case if you want what is in the best interest of your child or children.
As long as the GAL does their job well and finds what is best for the child, their presence helps the child. That may be bad for some parents, but the court is more worried about what is best for the child.

What is the difference between a guardian and a guardian ad litem?

A guardian is a person who is responsible for a child and fills the role of a parent. A guardian ad litem is an attorney that represents the child’s best interests in a case. So, the guardian is a parent, the guardian ad litem is an attorney helping the child out.

What does a GAL do in a custody case?

A GAL will speak with the child and the parents to understand the situation. They will further investigate the situation as well to figure out what is in the best interest of the child.

How do you get a GAL in Illinois?

A GAL can be appointed to a case if the court thinks it is necessary or one of the parties can ask for one. If you think a GAL is necessary in your case, you file the necessary paperwork with the court.

Is a guardian ad litem a good idea?

A guardian ad litem is a good idea if what you want is in the best interests of the child. The GAL will also support finding an agreement, so they may help the other party see your point of view.

Are guardian ad litems free?

Guardian ad litems are not free. But, if neither party can pay for the GAL, then the court may waive the fees.

How do you impress a guardian ad litem?

The best way to get a GAL on your side is to demonstrate that you are a good parent. Show that you are committed to your child’s well-being and have been for a long time. If you have made mistakes, own up to them and show them how you have grown.

Do you have to be an attorney to be a guardian ad litem in Illinois?

In Illinois, a guardian ad litem must be an attorney. Not only do they have to be an attorney, but they must also have extra training. Oftentimes, GALs start as family law attorneys or later become family law attorneys.

References: 1. 750 ILCS § 405 (2-3). Guardian ad Litem. | 2. 750 ILCS § 5/506 (b). Representation of Child.