The Differences between a Guardian ad Litem and Child Representative
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a lawyer that is appointed to represent the best interests of the minor involved in the case. 705 ILCS 405/2-17. GALs are typically appointed when the parent and minor have conflicting interests in the case and an additional person is needed to ensure the minor’s needs are being taken care of. 705 ILCS 405/2-17. A GAL is required to investigate the facts of the case, and interview the minor and the parties, in order to testify or submit a report to the court stating their recommendations in agreement with the best interests of the child. 705 ILCS 405/2-17. A GAL acts more like a witness who needs to testify in court and can be subject to cross-examination. In People v. Ashley L., a GAL was appointed to analyze if the defendant’s parental rights should be terminated based solely on the best interests of the child. People v. Ashley L. (In re J.M.J.), 2020 IL App (5th) 200014-U. The GAL testified in court based on her findings and the judge made a decision from all the testimony heard in the case.
A Child Representative is an attorney that is appointed to advocate for the child’s best interests. Ill. 18th Cir. R. 15.14. They are required to meet with the child and the parties and investigate the facts of the case. A child representative is focused on encouraging settlement and the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution. They are not called to be a witness and cannot be cross-examined, but rather act as would the attorneys for the parties. Ill. 18th Cir. R. 15.14. Child representatives occupy a middle ground between children’s attorneys and GALs, they have full immunity in the court, and have been found to aid the court in determining what the child’s best interests are. Nichols v. Fahrenkamp, 2019 IL 123990, 45.
A GAL and child representative are both appointed in cases where the child or minor’s interest conflicts with their parent’s interest in the case. The judge then appoints someone to ensure the child’s interests are being looked after and relies on their analysis in making decisions regarding the child’s future. However, unlike a GAL, a child representative may not be cross examined and is more focused on alternative dispute resolution.