What is a Guardian Ad Litem in a Child Custody Case?

Guardian Ad Litems in Illinois Child Custody Cases Explained

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
October 28, 2019

In this article, we will explain the role of a Guardian ad Litem in Illinois child custody cases and answer the following questions:

  • What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
  • What does a Guardian Ad Litem do in an Illinois child custody case?
  • When will a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed in a child custody case?
  • Who pays for a Guardian Ad Litem?
  • How much does a Guardian Ad Litem cost?, and can a Guardian Ad Litem be removed?

What is a Guardian Ad Litem in a Child Custody Case?

Guardian Ad Litems, Child’s Representatives, and Attorneys for the Child are roles that can be assigned to an attorney in a contested case involving the allocation of parenting time and responsibility.  All three roles are intended to independently represent the best interests of the child involved.  However, the three roles differ slightly, and each may be optimal for a different set of circumstances.  In this article, we will focus on the role of a Guardian ad Litem as a baseline.  In our next article we will explain how the roles of Child Representative and Attorney for the child differ from that of a Guardian Ad Litem and in which circumstances each is appropriate.

What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do in an Illinois Child Custody Case?  

A Guardian Ad Litem is an attorney with family law experience who is responsible for investigating the facts surrounding the child and each of the parents and submitting a report to the court containing the Guardian Ad Litem’s recommendation as to how parenting time and responsibility should be allocated in order to serve the best interests of the child.  

The Guardian Ad Litem will typically interview both parents and the child.  The Guardian Ad Litem may also interview third parties such as psychologists, doctors, teachers, and relatives.  The GAL will typically conduct a “home study,” during which he will visit the child’s residence and interview the other residents.  

As stated above, the Guardian Ad Litem will submit a report to the court containing his or her findings and recommendations.  The Guardian Ad Litem may then be cross-examined by the parties.  The judge will often follow the Guardian Ad Litem’s recommendations, but is not required to do so.  

Once a Guardian Ad Litem has been appointed by the court, he or she will receive copies of all of the pleadings in the case and must be present at all court dates.  Guardian Ad Litems can file pleadings, file motions requesting relief on behalf of the children, and may call and cross-examine witnesses.  

When Will a Guardian Ad Litem Be Appointed in a Child Custody Case?

Guardian Ad Litems are not appointed in every child custody case.  They may be requested by either party or independently appointed by the judge if the judge believes that the parties are not capable of representing the best interests of the child.

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

Guardian Ad Litems submit fee petitions to the court.  The court will determine whether the fees are reasonable.  The court has discretion to apportion the fees that it finds reasonable to be paid by one or both of the parents or by the child’s estate.

How Much Does a Guardian Ad Litem Cost?

Guardian Ad Litems are paid by the hour.  The typical hourly rate can range between $75 and $250 per her depending on whether the GAL is an attorney.  Guardian Ad Litems’ retainers tend to range between $1,500 and $3,500, but the total cost of the Guardian Ad Litem can exceed these amounts depending on the facts of the case involved and the complexity of investigation required.

Can a Guardian Ad Litem Be Removed From a Case?

If one of the parties believes that the Guardian Ad Litem assigned to the case is acting improperly, is unfairly biased, or is not competent to serve in the role, he or she may file a petition to remove the Guardian Ad Litem, which states the reason that the GAL should be removed.  If the petition is granted, the court will remove the GAL and appoint a new one.  

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What Does a Guardian Ad Litem Do in an Illinois Child Custody Case?

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