Law Blog

CHILDREN IN DIVORCE

-- Tess Whitaker

May 11, 2016

 

Divorce is difficult on everyone, but bring in a child (especially one of minority age) and things can get even more complicated. During a divorce often times parents will fight over who the kids will live with the majority of the time, and who gets to call the daily shots, and what is truly in the best interest of their children. Where once both parents would agree that sports, art, music lessons, were all necessary to raise a well-rounded and cultured child bring in a divorce and suddenly what was once a great idea is now only there to restrict the other person from spending time with the children. 

Bring in the GAL. GAL is an acronym for Guardian ad Litem. The GAL's role is to represent the children of the divorcing couple. The parents are entitled to legal counsel and representation, and the law affords this same right to children, when and if necessary, at a cost to one or both parents. Consideration is a must prior to requesting a GAL from the judge, according to the Illinois Legal Advocacy. Though some judges automatically appoint a GAL in a involving minor children, other judges use GALs discretionary dependent on the needs of the case, the cooperation level of the parents, and the availability of a GAL. 

Illinois Legal Advocate also reminds us that a GAL can create a significant disadvantage to the warring party making this request. The parents often time confuse the purpose of the GAL by applying the notion that the GAL is now a second attorney representing them when in fact the GAL is only there to speak on behalf of the parties children.

Remembering that the GAL is working for your children is incredibly important. Calling the GAL and overwhelming them with issues that may or may not impact your own interest in a child custody dispute can definitely bring adverse effects. Always run any idea through your attorney prior to approaching the GAL. When you do contact the GAL ask yourself checklist questions first: 

  • Am I calling with a solidified and factual issue that can bring harm to the children or restrict what is in their best interest? Never call the GAL with unsubstantiated allegations.

  • Am I able to control my tone, my language, and my emotional response when speaking with the GAL? If the answer is in any way, shape or form, no or even questionable, hang up the phone and wait until you can regain composure.

  • Is the issue about the kids or is it about setting a bad image of the other parent? Sometimes what we think at first is about the kids it really is more about trying to gain the upper hand over the other parent by shedding an unfavorable light. Most GALs, even if they buy in once or twice, will soon see that the issue is more about getting at each other than helping the children. Talk to a third party outsider or your attorney even if you are able to have a tingling of doubt.

Always remember that your first impression with the GAL will be the most lasting, but that impression can also quickly deteriorate if you are constantly badgering the GAL with insignificant complaints that do not bring foul to the children and are unable to be substantiated. To keep your light favorable always think twice before taking any action.

Once a GAL is appointed, and you have your safety checklist in place, keep these basic pointers with your other list:

  • Never tell a GAL how to do their job. 

  • Follow what the GAL tells you. This is incredibly important as the GAL assigns instructions to either test you or to help them in their process.

  • The GAL is not your friend nor therapist.

  • Talk positively about yourself and your home environment for the children. Bad mouthing the other side does not help make your case.

  • The GAL has no interest in why you are divorcing, misconduct prior to the children's birth, or even misconduct between the two of you that has no impact on the children.

  • Be curteous, kind, and civil to the GAL.

  • Carefully select the parties the GAL will interview on your behalf. Remember, all the rules in place for your conduct and share them with each person. Friends and family can help but they can also hurt.

  • Agree or disagree with the GAL report, but always be respectful, especially in front of the judge.

In the end, your GAL is always working for the children and their report will reflect their findings. For further assistance please contact our office.