In this article, we will explain the difference between a Guardian Ad Litem, a Child’s Representative, and an Attorney for the Child in Illinois Child Custody Cases.
For foundational information on the role of a Guardian Ad Litem, check out our previous article Guardian Ad Litems in Illinois Child Custody Cases Explained. Because the role of Guardian Ad Litem is most common, our method for explaining the role of Child’s Representative and Attorney for the Child in Illinois custody cases will be to compare those roles to that of a Guardian Ad Litem.
Let’s begin by giving a quick recap of the role of a Guardian Ad Litem in child custody cases. A Guardian Ad Litem is a family law attorney or other professional appointed by the court to investigate the factual situation surrounding a contested child custody case, interview the parties, and submit a report to the court presenting the results of his or her investigation and a recommendation as to how the GAL believes that parenting time and responsibility should be allocated in order to serve the best interests of the child.
The Guardian Ad Litem can be cross-examined by either party about the contents of the report. The Guardian Ad Litem may also act as an advocate for the child’s best interests and may file pleadings and motions, issue discovery, and request relief from the court on behalf of the child. Judges often defer to the GAL’s recommendation when determining the allocation of parenting time and responsibility, but they are not required to do so.
A quick and dirty distinction to draw between the three roles we are discussing is that a Guardian Ad Litem is an agent of the court who investigates the best interests of the court for the purpose of making a recommendation to instruct the judge, an Attorney for the Child is simply the child’s attorney representing all of the child’s interests in the case, and a Child’s Representative falls somewhere in between.
Like a Guardian Ad Litem, a Child’s Representative and an Attorney for the Child are family law attorneys that are appointed to represent the best interests of the child. Unlike a GAL, neither a Child’s Representative nor an Attorney for the Child submits a report to the court and neither can be called as a witness or cross-examined by the parties.
Both the Child’s Representative and Attorney For the Child act as lawyers for the child. However, unlike the Attorney for the Child, the Child’s Representative is required by law to meet with the children and the parents.
Like the GAL, the Child’s Representative will conduct an investigation. However, instead of submitting a formal report to the court as the GAL does, the Child’s Representative will submit a pretrial memorandum making a recommendation as to the allocation of parenting time and responsibility. Because of the requirement that the GAL meet with the child, Child’s Representatives are usually appointed only when children are old enough to understand the situation and explain their wishes.
An Attorney for the Child does not have the obligation to conduct an investigation submit a report or recommendation or to meet with the child and parents. An attorney for the child simply acts as the child’s lawyer.
Like a GAL, a Child’s Representative and an Attorney for the Child may file pleadings and motions, issue discovery, and call witnesses.