Man holding child on shoulders, family law attorney

Courts often appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent the best interests of children in a child custody case and providing timely and accurate information without offering more than necessary is the best way to protect parental rights.

Guardian Ad Litem Represents the Children

Under Illinois law, a Guardian Ad Litem represents the best interests of the children and not the parents. The purpose of the GAL is to prepare a report for the court that details child custody issues in the divorce and to make recommendations regarding the best custody alternatives for the children.

Cooperating with the GAL

Parents in a divorce may not always agree on what type of custody arrangement is best for children. Acting independently of the parents and their family law attorney, the GAL represents the children and gathers information from all parties to make their report and custody recommendations.

Cooperating with the GAL is essential. Responding to requests for information in a timely and honest manner can help parents protect their custody rights. As they work with the GAL, parents should also:

  • Provide appropriate documentation to support their statements – The GAL may not always seek all of the available support information or may not know where to find it. Parents must ensure that the GAL has received all of the necessary information to make a fair custody recommendation.
  • Provide the right references – While the GAL may request references, not all references are equally helpful in a custody case. References provided should be relevant to parenting capabilities and fitness for child custody.
  • Refrain from sharing irrelevant information – Information shared must be relevant to the custody case. Other information may raise unforeseen issues that can affect child custody. Remain focused on what the GAL requests.
  • Earn trust – Accepting responsibility for an area of their lives that may not be perfect helps parents earn trust with the GAL. Denying their failings can be an indicator that the parent is not concerned with the best interests of the children.

Clarifying the Facts

The GAL’s report to the court is important in child custody cases, but it can be challenged. If the information in the report is incomplete or inaccurately reflects a parent’s custodial capabilities, the parent must be proactive in clarifying these issues with the court.