How to Get a Guardian ad Litem in Illinois

By John Cromwell

In any divorce or custody hearing, it is of the utmost importance that a child’s interests are considered. To ensure a child is legally protected, Illinois has created the guardian ad litem position. A guardian ad litem, or GAL, is a volunteer attorney who acts as a third party investigator who reviews a child’s family situation. She presents a report to the court, which details her findings and presents her recommendation as to what should be done with the child. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you may need to request the appointment of a guardian ad litem.

Judge Appointment

Some Illinois judges will appoint a GAL in every case that involves custody, but most do not, since few attorneys are available for the position. An Illinois judge will consider appointing a GAL when the child in question is very young, parents have demonstrated dishonesty to the court, or child abuse is suspected. A judge may also appoint a GAL when he thinks a more in-depth investigation into the child’s background is necessary. A GAL has significant freedom in investigating the family -- especially since the attorneys of both parents have the right to cross-examine the GAL regarding her report.

Petitioning for GAL

If a judge does not appoint a GAL on his own initiative, any party seeking custody of a child may petition the court to appoint a GAL. When preparing the petition, you should state why the court would be able to arrive at a better decision for the child with recommendations from a GAL. Under Illinois law, you should discuss whether the current evidence is sufficient to enable the judge to make a decision, what other methods for gaining information about the child’s case are available and whether the parents can afford to pay for the GAL’s services. Once the petition has been prepared and filed, the court will hold a hearing on the petition. Non-petitioning parties with a claim to custody can object to the appointment of a GAL at this time.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan


A GAL has one goal, which is to ensure that a child’s best interests are looked after. A GAL is generally a good judge of character and can determine which parent is best suited to have custody. She is not affiliated with either side, so her findings or communications with either party are not privileged.

Disadvantages of a GAL

Generally, if parents have the financial resources, it will be their responsibility to pay for a GAL’s services. But the GAL does not work for either parent, and is not a friend or confidant. In some ways, a GAL is another judge, since her report generally carries significant weight with the court. As a result, you will need to treat every interaction with the GAL as if you were interacting with the judge. Try to be as courteous as possible and follow the GAL’s instructions.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
California Laws on Teenage Custody Wishes


Related articles

How to File for Custody of a Minor in Mobile, Alabama

Custody disputes commonly arise as the result of divorce or paternity proceedings. The Alabama legislature has enacted laws governing petitions for custody, and custody proceedings are heard by judges in the Alabama family court system. In Mobile, parents must petition the family court in the 13th Judicial Circuit. Before seeking custody of a child, you should ensure that you are able to provide loving, competent care. In most cases, the child will do best if given liberal visitation with the other parent. Except in cases of abuse, children are frequently given time with both parents.

Divorce With Children & a Drug Addicted Spouse in Maryland

There are two types of child custody in Maryland: physical custody and legal custody. A parent with physical custody is responsible for day-to-day decisions while the child is living with him; whereas a parent with legal custody makes long-term decisions regarding the child's education, religion, medical care and other major life issues. Although either parent may establish custody rights, drug addiction of a parent may be cause for a court to deny parental rights.

The Best Interest of Children in a Custody Evaluation

Understanding the needs of a child is a crucial component to making an informed custody decision. Custody matters are governed by state law; however, every state requires courts to promote the best interests of the child. When parents can work together, a judge is generally inclined to conclude that the parents' agreed upon parenting proposal serves the best interests of the child. If parents cannot agree, the court must make its own determination. In these instances, neutral custody evaluations are often used to provide judges with an opinion from a qualified professional as to what arrangement promotes the best interests of the child.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

How to File a Motion to Change Guardian Ad Litem

When a judge appoints an individual to serve as a guardian ad litem, this is because the court has confidence in the ...

Checklist for Full Custody Hearings in Ohio

In Ohio, each parent has equal rights to the child and courts almost always give visitation to the non-custodial ...

Child Custody Rights for 12 Years & Older

Establishing child custody can be a highly contentious aspect of divorce. Although each parent may feel entitled to a ...

What Do You Call an Attorney Who Represents a Child in a Custody Case?

When it comes to custody disputes in divorce, some attorneys represent the grownups, and others look out for the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED