Jonathan Merel

What is a Guardian Ad Litem or Child Representative?

If you are a parent involved in a custody or parenting time dispute in the Circuit Court of Cook County chances are you have heard of, or are seeking the assistance from, a guardian ad litem or child representative to represent your child(ren) in court. A guardian ad litem or child representative is a licensed attorney who is a neutral third party that advocates for the well being of the child most commonly in child custody cases, divorcechild support or paternity suits.  While the role of guardian ad litem is similar to that of a child representative, the statute distinguishes some key differences between the two.  If an attorney is appointed on behalf of your child(ren), it is important to know which title has been given to them by the court.

A guardian ad litem or child representative can serve many purposes when brought into a case; the main objective being to represent the child, who, due to his or her age, cannot advocate for themselves.  Another role these attorneys serve is to attempt to find common ground between fighting parties and devise a settlement agreement (pertaining to the child only).  A guardian ad litem or child representative is appointed by the courts and has the responsibility of investigating the circumstances of the case.   Generally, the opinions and recommendations of a guardian ad litem or child representative tend to be given considerable weight.

Not just any family law attorney can call himself or herself a guardian ad litem or child representative.  Each jurisdiction creates its own set of guidelines required to represent children.  It is also common for attorneys to follow an application process to become a guardian ad litem or child representative in their jurisdictions, often having to interview before committees and complete various continuing education requirements.

Will a Guardian ad Litem or Child Representative Help My Case?

This is definitely a catch 22 type of scenario! A guardian ad litem or child representative can either help or hurt any case depending upon the objectives of the party. Since the main duty of a guardian ad litem or child representative is to focus on what is in the best interest of the child, he or she is hopefully very capable of identifying false accusations or trivial complaints. A guardian ad litem or child representative is trained in spotting disingenuous behavior, getting to know the facts of each case, making determinations for their client, and making recommendations accordingly. This can either be advantageous or a disadvantageous to either party if they are not cooperating or truly holding the child’s best interests at heart.

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