There are many divorce and family law cases where a guardian ad litem is appointed to sit in on a case on behalf of the divorcing couple’s child or children. In most guardianship cases, the guardian ad litem can be appointed at no cost, or volunteers from the Community Law Program at Loyola’s Law School can be appointed.
There are several situations when a divorce may cause a child or children to worry—children who may unfortunately be involved in the divorce process. When this is the case, the parents filing for divorce may not be able to come up with an ideal solution in the child’s or children’s best interests. If this situation arises, the parents may need to bring in another authorized person to assist in making decisions during the divorce process.
Family courts in Illinois—like those in the rest of the country—often have the unenviable task of making very difficult decisions regarding how a child will be cared for following the divorce or breakup of his or her parents. In more tragic situations, including those in which the child’s parents are deceased or incarcerated, the courts may need to decide on a guardian or other caretaker for the affected child. Throughout all of these types of cases, Illinois law provides that the child’s best interest should always be the top priority. To make sure the best interests of the child are fully protected, the court may appoint a specially-trained attorney to serve as a guardian ad litem for the duration of the proceedings.
In some custody cases, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is appointed to add a non-biased opinion on the matter. It is important for both parties to understand the GAL’s job, focus, and the weight of his/her decision before deciding whether to ask for this form of advocacy in a child custody case.
There are times when divorcing parents allow their own emotions to cloud their judgment related to what is best for their children. It is most often unintentional, but if not addressed, can have serious long-term consequences. Unfair or lopsided custody and visitation arrangements could result, for example, in one parent overwhelmed by responsibility while the other feels alienated. Possible negative effects are definitely not limited to the adults, and in fact, may be even more severe for the children.
It is not uncommon in divorce cases for each party to retain their own attorney for legal advice and representation through the process. Concerns regarding division of property, spousal support and arrangements for the couple’s children all need to be addressed and eventually resolved. Both sides typically have their own beliefs as to how the agreements should be established, often at odds with those of their spouse. In many cases, litigation is necessary.