Divorces can be as difficult for children as it is for the parents, if not more difficult. If the parents are particularly hostile to each other and fight over all the issues, including time-sharing and parental responsibility, the children may feel as though they are in the middle. When this happens, the children may need a neutral advocate to represent their best interests in the process. The court may appoint this neutral advocate by appointing a guardian ad litem.
A guardian ad litem is a person, usually an experienced family law attorney, who is appointed by the judge in a divorce case to investigate and present finding on issues outlined by the court. The guardian ad litem is supposed to find out what the best interests of the child are by interviewing the parents and the children involved. In some cases, the guardian ad litem may have to interview other people involved in the child’s life.
The guardian ad litem does not work for either parent and is not supposed to be influenced by either parent to present a slanted or biased view of what would constitute the best interest of the child. If a parent feels that the guardian ad litem is being biased, he should discuss this with his attorney in order to notify the court of the possibility. However, the guardian ad litem may have to ask the parents some difficult questions, and although these questions may make a parent uncomfortable, they may not raise a reasonable claim of bias.
Either parent can request the appointment of a guardian ad litem or a child representative if the parent believes the other parent is not looking out for the best interests of the child. The judge may also appoint a guardian ad litem or child representative on its own motion if the judge believes it is necessary. The judge makes the ultimate decision on whether to appoint a guardian ad litem or a child representative even when the parents make the request.
A child representative serves a different role from a guardian ad litem. While the guardian ad litem may be an attorney, he is not an attorney for the child. An attorney for the child would offer independent legal advice and counsel to a child and would not serve the same purpose as a guardian ad litem. For example, an attorney for the child may not testify and be cross-examined in the divorce proceedings while a guardian ad litem may be subject to this questioning.
There are fees associated with the appointment of a guardian ad litem, and these are usually ordered to be paid by one or both parents.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
If you are a parent going through a divorce and would like to know more about how your child’s best interests are investigated and presented in the divorce process, you should contact an experienced and compassionate family law attorney. Contact an experienced Naperville child custody and visitation attorneys at the Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC for legal assistance.