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IL divorce lawyerWhen divorcing spouses share children together, the divorce process is often much more involved than divorces not involving children. This is especially true if the spouses are not able to reach an agreement about the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. In some divorce cases involving child-related disputes, a guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed to act as a child representative. The judge may assign a GAL to the case or a spouse may request for a GAL to be assigned. The opinion of a guardian ad litem can have a major impact on the outcome of a child custody case.

Understanding the Role of a Guardian Ad Litem

Unfortunately, in many custody disputes, one or both parents are more interested in “winning” the case than working toward a custody arrangement that is in the child’s best interests. During a contentious divorce case, the wishes and needs of the children can become obscured. A guardian ad litem is a lawyer who represents the child’s best interests. He or she is tasked with investigating the facts of the case and eventually developing an opinion about what type of child custody arrangement is best for the child. This may be accomplished through evaluating the child’s residence as well as interviewing parents, siblings, teachers, daycare workers, and other people involved in the child’s life. The GAL will also look for evidence that suggests a living environment may be unsafe for the child. He or she may analyze criminal records, health records, school records, and any past or present Child Protective Services cases. The GAL then shares his or her findings and overall opinion with the judge. Although the judge is not required to follow the GAL’s recommendation, this recommendation will most likely carry substantial weight.

Should I Request a GAL?

Some divorcing spouses misunderstand the purpose of a guardian ad litem. They assume that the GAL is an additional attorney who will help them argue their side during the divorce process. However, the GAL does not “work” for one spouse or the other. His or her only allegiance is to the child or children involved in the dispute. You should only request a GAL if you are prepared to be honest and fully cooperate with his or her investigation. If the GAL catches you in a lie, this could significantly reduce your credibility. Many parents request a guardian ad litem because they have concerns that the other parent is not capable of providing a safe, loving home for their child. If you want to learn more about requesting a guardian ad litem, speak to an experienced child custody attorney.

Contact a St. Charles Child Custody Lawyer

A guardian ad litem is a lawyer who is responsible for investigating the facts of a child-related legal dispute and presenting a recommendation to the judge. To discuss whether or not assigning a guardian ad litem to your case may be right for you, contact Shaw Family Law, P.C. Call our office today at 630-584-5550 and schedule a free consultation with an accomplished Illinois family law attorney from our firm.

 

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IL custody lawyerA child’s well-being should be the top priority for parents going through a divorce. They should want their child to have everything they need throughout the stages of their life. However, often one parent can be substandard in their compliance with the parenting plan agreed upon with their former partner.

After a while of trying to get a co-parent to show up for visitations, send support payments, or just call to talk to a child, they may give up and choose to have a new partner - the child’s stepparent - adopt the little one.

Stepparents adopting their stepchild is not uncommon especially when a biological parent:

  • Is abusive
  • Is an alcoholic or a drug addict
  • Does not show up to scheduled visitations
  • Does not financially support a child
  • Is convicted of a crime that will see them in prison for a long period of time
  • Abandons their child

Being married to the primary decision-maker of the child can give a step-parent some rights, but they are still limited in their own decision-making because there is no biological relationship to the child. If an adoption occurs, the stepparent can then be included in major life choices for the minor including school plans, financial responsibility, and medical procedures.

Each state has a different process when a step-parent wants to adopt a stepchild. Also, each case is sensitive to each particular family since everyone has a different situation they are living through. The state of Illinois requires a step-parent to be a resident of the state for six months before filing for adoption. This is because the adoption will go through a family court locally so no one needs to travel for any reason. After that, the process should take three months to complete.

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