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Illinois Divorce and Child Custody: GAL or Child’s Rep?

Many of the cases that I manage involve securing the involvement of a Guardian ad Litem, or as is typically done in Cook County, a Child’s Representative. Many clients have questions about the role of the GAL or Child’s Rep, and the function of these individuals in the contested divorce and child custody issues.

The GALs and Child’s Reps (CR) are attorneys with family law experience, who must undergo some minimal training in order to be certified to be on the “list” of GALs/CRs in each judge’s courtroom.  Many judges have preferences to appoint certain individuals in their cases, as there can be a belief with some judges that certain GALs tend to be more successful settling contested cases. In my view, the goal in obtaining an appointment of a GAL or CR is to suggest to the court a GAL or CR that has deep experience, has shown good judgment and diligence with past cases, and can be trusted to do the investigation and reporting and recommendations to the court well.  My experience working with many fine GALs and CRs over the past decades has provided me with an opportunity to know the competent GALs well, and to work to have the best possible investigation and recommendations that serve the children, in my cases.

Here is a definition provided, that describes the functions of these court appointed investigators:

“A guardian ad litem (also known as a “GAL”) is an attorney for the parties’ child(ren). The guardian ad litem is required to investigate the facts of the case, interview the child(ren) and the parties, and testify or submit a written report to the court regarding his or her recommendations in accordance with the best interest of the child.  Unlike a child representative, the guardian ad litem may be called as a witness for purposes of cross-examination regarding the guardian ad litem’s report or recommendations.  For more information about GALs, please see Section 506 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/506).

A child representative is an attorney for the parties’ child(ren) that advocates what the child representative finds to be in the best interests of the child(ren) after reviewing the facts and circumstances of the case.  The child representative is required to meet with the child(ren) and the parties, investigate the facts of the case, and encourage settlement and the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution.  Unlike a guardian ad litem, the child representative cannot be called as a witness to testify.  For more information about child representatives, please see Section 506 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/506). “

In my view the involvement with a GAL or Child’s Rep must be highly collaborative with my management of the case.  The GAL and the Child’s Rep’s recommendations enjoy substantial deference by the court, and many judges defer to the GALs/CRs in terms of deciding or formulating the best interests of children in a case. Therefore, both the selection and professional collaboration and interaction with the GAL is of utmost importance.  Further, I always want my clients to understand the GAL/CRs process well, to be prepared, to be comfortable, and to be in a position to best assist the GAL with the investigation of the child related issues.


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