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Guardian ad Litem, Attorney for the Child, & Child Representative: Understanding the roles of the attorneys involved in child abuse and neglect cases

When a parent has been charged with abuse or neglect of a child, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) will become involved throughout the case. The main goal of DCFS, as well as the court, in deciding the best placement option for the child is to resolve the matter in the best interest of the child.

In order for the case to be resolved in the child's best interest, many individuals will become involved throughout the legal process, advocating specifically on behalf of the child. Among the state's attorney, attorney for the mom, attorney for the dad, and the DCFS caseworkers, the child's legal representation will most likely include a guardian ad litem, the attorney for the child, and a child representative. Keeping the roles of each representative separate can be confusing, but it will be beneficial to know for any parent who has become involved with DCFS.

Attorney for the child. The attorney for the child (AFC) advocates for the child in the same way that the attorney for the mother or father advocates on his or her behalf. Among his responsibilities include filing the various pleadings, communicating with the child on an attorney-client level, examining witnesses, and interviewing the child's parents.

Guardian ad litem. The role of the guardian ad litem (GAL) is to behave as the "eyes and ears" of the court. A GAL will devote much of her time to discovering the truth with respect to the child's past and present living environment. With this information, the GAL will make a recommendation to DCFS and to the court regarding placement of the child. The difference between a GAL and the attorney for the child, however, is that there does not exist an attorney-client privilege between the GAL and the child. Additionally, the GAL has extensive investigative powers, by which she will make her recommendations to the court regarding the best plan for the child.

Child Representative. The child representative (CR) functions as a hybrid of both the GAL and the AFC. The CR is also known as the "best interests" attorney. The roles of CR and the GAL may seem to overlap, but the major distinction lies in this: An attorney with attorney-client privileges (i.e. the AFC) must represent his client's interests, while a GAL must make recommendations on the best interests of the client. The CR must do both. The main distinction between the AFC and the CR is that the AFC must represent the child's wishes, while the CR must advocate for the best interests of the child.

For more information on child abuse and neglect court proceedings, feel free to contact The Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler in Rockford, IL at 815-981-4859 for a free consultation. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.

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The Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler, Inc. 728 North Court Street, Suite B Rockford, IL 61103 Phone: 815-981-4859 Fax: 815-997-5129 Rockford Law Office Map