Under Section 506 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/506), the Court may appoint an attorney to represent a child in any case regarding “support, custody, visitation, allocation of parental responsibilities, education, parentage, property interest, or general welfare of a minor or dependent child.” The Court may appoint either an attorney to represent the child, a guardian ad litem or a child’s representative. While the parties can ask the court to appoint an attorney, the parties cannot directly hire one on their own.

(1) Attorney to represent the child: The Court may appoint an attorney to provide independent legal counsel for the child. The attorney owes the child the same duties as he or she would an adult client.

(2) Guardian ad litem (GAL): The guardian ad litem investigates and examines the parties’ and child’s situation and makes recommendations that are in the best interests of the child. The GAL investigates the facts of the case and interviews the child and the parties. They then present a written report to the Court, which is available to all parties. The guardian ad litem also testifies and may be called as a witness for purposes of cross-examination regarding the guardian ad litem’s report or recommendations.

(3) Child representative: The child representative is similar to the GAL in that they investigate the situation and advocate for the best interests of the child. However, a child representative becomes a party to the case and cannot testify or be called as a witness in court. Instead of submitting a written report, the child representative offers “evidence-based legal argument.” The child representative must, by law, meet with the child, and he or she shall not disclose confidential communications made by the child, except as required by law or by the Rules of Professional Conduct. The child representative should have the same authority and obligation to participate in the litigation as does an attorney for a party and shall possess all the powers of investigation as does a guardian ad litem.

The court enters an order concerning an initial retainer for costs and fees when the attorney, guardian ad litem or child’s representative is appointed. The attorney who is appointment should file a detailed invoice for their services within 90 days of their appointment and every subsequent 90-day period thereafter during the course of his or her representation. The Court then reviews the fees and grants them so long as they are reasonable and necessary when in excess of the retainer ordered. The Court may order both parents, by any other party or source, or from the marital estate, if there is one, or the child’s separate estate, to pay these fees.