Archive for the ‘Guardian ad Litem’ Category

Representation of Children in Custody and Visitation Disputes

February 19th, 2015 at 9:05 pm

representation of children, child custody, Chicago child visitation attorneyMost parents would never do anything to intentionally put their children at risk for physical, emotional, or psychological harm. However, even the most conscientious parents may find themselves in the midst of a bitter, contentious divorce. In such cases, the needs and well-being of the couple’s children can be underrepresented or unintentionally neglected. The potential effects of such a situation may be long-lasting as child custody orders or visitation arrangements can be difficult to alter once entered. For this reason, the law in Illinois permits the court to appoint an attorney to protect a child’s best interest in any proceedings related to custody or visitation.

There are three appointment options available to the court when necessary. Judges are permitted to appoint a qualified attorney to fill the role of either attorney for the child, guardian ad litem, or child representative. Whichever the court chooses to utilize, the law expects the work of the appointed attorney to be in compliance with the statutes regarding each and to be seriously considered by the court throughout the case.

Attorney for the Child

The role of attorney for the child is a very straightforward one: counsel and legal representation for a child of the parties in the case. As any lawyer, the Attorney for the Child is expected to represent his or her client’s wishes before the court. The attorney has the same obligations and confidentiality to the child as any other client, even though he or she is not an adult. Such representation may be fine for an older child, but younger children typically lack decision making skills necessary to effectively utilize an Attorney for the Child’s services.

Guardian ad Litem 

By contrast, a guardian ad litem serves as an extension of the court to independently determine the child’s best interest. Unlike an attorney for the child, a guardian ad litem is not bound by the child’s expressed wishes. The guardian ad litem has the authority to investigate the family circumstances and may speak with all involved parties to establish what outcome would best benefit the child. The guardian ad litem then presents a report which he or she can testify about, subject to cross examination. The guardian ad litem’s opinion is typically important to the court’s decision.

Child Representative 

For many cases, a child representative may be most appropriate, as this role combines the strengths of each of the other two roles in such a way that make it an attractive choice for the court. The Child Representative is granted all of the same investigative powers as a guardian ad litem to determine the child’s best interest.

However, the child representative does not act as a witness or make a report; rather, he or she represents the child’s best-interest position as a party to the case. Any wishes expressed by the child must be taken into account, but if they are not aligned with his or her true well-being, the child representative is not required to advocate for that position. In addition, the child’s representative’s communications with the child are protected by confidentiality.

If you have an on-going custody or visitation case and you would like the court to appoint an attorney to represent your child’s interest in the case, contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney. Call Anderson & Associates, P.C. today at 312-345-9999 for a free initial consultation. We offer five convenient offices throughout the greater Chicago area to best meet your family’s needs, including downtown, Orland Park, Schaumburg, Wheaton and Northbrook.