Guardian Ad Litem

Guardian ad Litem in Kendall County and Kane County

Ironically you cannot retain the Colosimo Law Office to be the Guardian Ad Litem on your case.  This office must be appointed as the Guardian Ad Litem either by the agreement of the attorneys in your case or by an order of the court.

If you are reading this it is very likely that this office has been appointed as the Guardian Ad Litem in your case.  You are likely doing some research on the person the court has appointed to assist the court in making a very important decision regarding your most valuable asset, your children .

As the father of three boys I understand the importance of maintaining a strong and loving relationship with your children.  Unfortunately, in a divorce situation the children must reside somewhere.  Since the parents will no longer live together a very important decision needs to be made.  The burden of the best interest of the children will initially fall on my shoulders and ultimately the decision will be made by the court.

If I have been appointed as the Guardian Ad Litem in your case I am glad that you are researching my background.  After all you should take an interest in learning as much about the Guardian Ad Litem process as possible.

Guardian ad Litem

A Guardian ad litem is an attorney whose directive is to advocate for the best interests of the child. A G.A.L. is not bound by the child’s wishes-as would be an attorney for the child (assuming a competent child). A G.A.L. is not an attorney for either party and may not advocate on behalf of either parent. The G.A.L.’s sole purpose is to advocate for the best interest of the child. It has been said that the G.A.L. is the eyes and ears of the court.  G.A.L.s investigate and make recommendations to the court. What specific issues are to be investigated and recommended are to be determined by the court order appointing the G.A.L. G.A.L.s have subpoena power and may take depositions and propound interrogatories as part of “discovery.” They may call witnesses to the stand at trial and may cross examine all witnesses. They may submit evidence and briefs to the court.

Because they are required to make recommendations, G.A.L.s themselves can be called to the witness stand and cross examined. The G.A.L. serves as a sort of expert for the court.

Guardian Ad Litem Overview

A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is an attorney appointed by the court in a case that involves the interest of a child. Some judges assign a GAL to nearly every case; others only do so at the request of one of the parties to the case. Many judges have a long-standing relationship with specific GALs and trust their judgment.

Do You Really Want a Guardian Ad Litem?

Some judges routinely appoint a GAL in every case. The majority of judges do not appoint GALs to every case, as most circuits lack a vast supply of qualified, willing attorneys.

Many clients requesting a GAL mistakenly believe that they will be getting a second, more powerful lawyer. Clients commonly see the GAL as an additional advocate for them because, like the GAL, clients believe that the children are the sole interest in the case. This is generally not true, considering that both sides to a case will say they are only interested in the best interest of the child.

Who Will Pay?

A Guardian is not free.  Unless, the court appoints a Guardian Ad Litem on a “Pro Bono” basis someone will have to pay the Guardian Ad Litem for their services.  Depending on the complexity of the case the Guardian Ad Litem fees can quickly escalate.  Every Guardian Ad Litem is required to take one (1) “Pro Bono” or free case per year.  The Colosimo Law Office is proud of its service to our community.  We take well in excess of the minimum requirement per year as well as take on many “Pro Bono” cases on behalf of C.A.S.A. (Court Appointed Special Advocates).

The Guardian Ad Litem does not decide who pays for the G.A.L.  This decision is made by the court.  Often the parties are ordered to slip the cost evenly.  However, there are many occasions where the costs are split disproportionally or one party is ordered to pay the entire amount.  Discuss these issues with your attorney.

Communicating with the GAL

You should discuss any contact with the G.A.L. with your attorney before contacting the GAL.  All communications with the G.A.L. are not privileged and anything you say to the GAL can be used in court or for any other purpose.

The Colosimo Law Office is always available to speak to either party in a G.A.L. case.  We are willing to take in and review all information provided by the parties.  We take the best interest of minor children very seriously and will conduct a thorough investigation on all cases.

Will You and Your Attorney Like the GAL?

To avoid disappointment, you and your attorney must have realistic expectations. The G.A.L. operates within a framework established by the judge. The G.A.L. is not the judge in your case.  Generally, G.A.L.s will not waste time with issues they know that the Court thinks are unimportant. Because G.A.L.s handle so many cases each year, they know which issues the judge is focused on and which ones are of less concern. They will look for specific issues they know to be important, and will not be as concerned with other issues.

Follow the GAL’s system

Pay attention to what the G.A.L. focuses on and what they ask of you. You should follow the direction o of the G.A.L.  When gathering information, if the G.A.L. asks for something there is a reason for doing so.  If you have any questions or concerns you should discuss those with your attorney.  Remember that the G.A.L. is not your attorney and will not give you any legal advice.

What If You Dislike the GAL?

Unless you have a very good reason (the G.A.L. has previously represented one of the parties in another case), don’t argue against appointment of a specific G.A.L. unless you have very good reason.  It is best for the attorneys to agree on a G.A.L.  If they cannot, the court will pick the G.A.L. and the parties will be “stuck” with that G.A.L.

As a G.A.L. I begin each and every case without bias.  Experience has taught me that things are not always what they seem.  As a probation officer within the court system and now as an attorney I have spent nearly every day since 1994 in the criminal and family courts.  I understand that at times you must expect the unexpected.

However, at some point, I will and must form opinions, based upon what I perceives to be the facts. Those opinions may include some very harsh assessments of you or other party.  It is common for a G.A.L. to be accused as being biased.  In reality, a point will come in the case where I will have to make a recommendation in the best interest of the child or children.  Once my recommendation is made, someone will likely be upset.  Please know that my recommendations are ALWAYS based on the best interest of the children.  At times, my recommendations may upset both parents.  Once against, my concern is the best interest of the children, not the hurt feelings of the parties.

We Have a GAL, Now What?

Once you are appointed a G.A.L., it is in your best interest to work well with the G.A.L.  Your attorney should send the G.A.L. a copy of the order appointing him and ask if he needs a copy of the file.  Make sure the G.A.L. knows when the next court date is and any burning issues in the case.  Your attorney’s first contact with the GAL might be a great first opportunity to set the tone of the case and start to plead your side.  As a G.A.L. I am always interested in what your attorney has to say.

Don’t Tell the GAL How to Do Their Job

Neither you nor your attorney should presume to tell the G.A.L. what his job is or how to do it. G.A.L.s give each case an enormous amount of work and thought.  I do not mind being questioned or politely challenged.  As the G.A.L. I can and should be able to justify my actions and recommendation.

Follow the GAL’s Instructions

This is not hard to do, but far too many parties and attorneys don’t bother. If the G.A.L. tells you to call him after a weekend visit to let him know how it went, make sure you do it.  If the G.A.L. asks for documents, make sure you get them to the G.A.L.  If the G.A.L. asks your attorney to call him to discuss their view of the case, make sure the attorney calls the G.A.L.

The GAL is Not a FRIEND or a Therapist

This is a business relationship. As soon as the G.A.L. is appointed, copy and organize all relevant documents for him. You may want to provide me with a list of names, telephone numbers (home and work), and addresses of people that I should contact. Each name should be followed by a brief summary of what this person knows.  I might not contact everyone on your list. I may not contact anyone on your list. However, if you are able to easily provide me with a list of relevant contacts like teachers, therapists and doctors, it will make my job much easier and will allow me to learn more things about you.

Character references are rarely helpful.  I am looking for unbiased people who have knowledge of the parties and the children. I know that your mother will say great things about you and vice-versa.  This information is not very useful.

Emphasize the Positive

I want to hear why you are the right parent versus why the other party is the wrong parent.  Although both are important I still need to hear about you.

Do Not Expect the GAL to Care About Misconduct Before the Children Were Born

The court is focused on standards like “willing and able,” “change in circumstances,” and “best interest.” Focusing on the parent’s wrongdoings from years ago is only helpful if the parent is continuing to exhibit those behaviors in the present.

Announced/Unannounced Visits

At my discretion I will may conduct announced and unannounced visits to your home or other locations.  I am not a peace officer and I do not and cannot secure any warrant to enter onto your property.  I have had people not allow me to enter their home and they have turned me away.  I will never force anyone to do anything they do not wish to do during my investigation.  However, your level of cooperation and willingness to work with me in this case are all taken into consideration when making my final recommendation.

Respect the GAL’s Recommendations to the Judge

My recommendations will be reported to the court either in oral form, written form or both.  The type of recommendation is ordered by the court not by the G.A.L.  When you first hear the oral report or read a written report you will need time to digest the entire report.  Once my report is submitted my investigation ends, unless the court orders me to follow up on a certain issue or question it may have regarding my investigation.  You should discuss any concerns with your attorney and not contact me directly once the report has been submitted, unless instructed to do so by your attorney or the court.

I understand that upon submitting my report one or both of the parties might not agree with part or all of my recommendations.  The only answer I have to this problem is that I have always and will continue to always make my recommendations based on the information provided and in the best interest of the children.  The G.A.L. is always place in a position that someone will eventually be upset with the recommendation.  I accept this as part of the appointment and process.

The judge will often follow the GAL’s recommendation, however the final decision is always left to the court.  If you are unsatisfied with my recommendation I would ask that you discuss your options with your attorney.

I wish you and the opposing party all the best.  At the conclusion of the case, and regardless of my recommendation, you and the opposing party are still the parents of these children.  You will need to work together for their best interest.  The greatest gift you can give your children is to get along with their other parent.  Children will remember this and cherish their memories with each parent.

Mediation Attorney Plano, IL