If you are going through a divorce, you will likely come across a variety of procedural rules that you will have to follow and many different legal terms you may not have heard before. One of these terms is “guardian ad litem.” Many divorcing couples do not understand the role of a guardian ad litem (GAL) or why one may be appointed by the court. However, this person can play an important part in decisions about child custody, so you will want to be sure to understand how to proceed if a GAL has been appointed.
What Is a Guardian Ad Litem?
In some divorce cases, matters related to the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time may need to be addressed by the judge. When making decisions about these issues, the judge must take a number of factors into consideration, including the home life of both parents, the financial situation of each parent and ultimately, what is best for the child.
While this information is all very important for a judge to have, he or she will be unable to perform extensive interviews with the parents, the child or other relevant parties, such as teachers, doctors, family members and counselors. To gather the required information, a judge may appoint a guardian ad litem who will investigate the case and report the findings to the judge. The GAL will typically prepare a written report, and each parent’s attorney may cross-examine the GAL in court. The judge is not bound by the recommendations made by the guardian ad litem, but he or she will usually take the report into great consideration when making decisions....
There are few things more difficult for a family to go through than divorce. This is particularly true when there are children involved. Emotions run high, and everyone wants to leave the marriage in a manner that is fair to them, and the entire family can struggle to move on with their lives. In addition to all of this, parents must negotiate a child custody agreement and determine child support obligations. During this process, there are three very important things each parent must keep in mind.
1. Keep Your Emotions in Check
Spouses will normally experience strong feelings when going through a divorce, such as sadness, anger, disappointment and frustration. However, letting these emotions rule child custody negotiations typically results in a longer, more difficult process. Parents should do their best to try to avoid being confrontational during these proceedings, and remember at all times that negotiations are taking place in the best interests of the child, not the parents. In addition, remember that these negotiations can take time. Rather than rushing to reach an agreement as soon as possible, you should ensure that the final agreement protects your parental rights and meets your children’s needs.
2. Know the Laws
Child support is determined by a judge who will use the financial information the two spouses have submitted to make a decision. Due to this, both parents going through a divorce must provide accurate financial documents, and they should be sure to understand the laws surrounding child support....
Struggling to make ends meet puts a strain on the best of relationships, and if it lasts for a considerable period of time and/or is extreme, overcoming this challenge may prove more than a couple can bear. Marital assets and debts must be divided in divorce, and when finances start to break down, the ramifications can reach all the way to the possible loss of a home through foreclosure. Navigating the divorce process is hard enough in straightforward circumstances, but it can become quite complicated when an active foreclosure is being sought, because the mortgage lender has a legitimate interest in how this asset is divided. This situation may be further complicated if one spouse wants to attempt to save the home and assume sole possessory rights and ownership.
In an unusual case, an Illinois appeals court upheld a default judgment that terminated the interest of a divorcing couple’s mortgage lender in the marital home, which was in the middle of a foreclosure, because it failed to respond to a complaint by the husband challenging its validity. While uncommon, this case highlights how intertwined a divorce and a foreclosure can be.
Who Is Responsible for the Debt?
Financing the purchase of a home involves the legal assumption of the obligation to repay a promissory note, the contract that outlines how long and how much the buyer must pay to satisfy the loan. In addition, a lien is placed on the property, which gives the lender the right to repossess the property in the event of default. Most couples jointly sign these documents, making both spouses liable to meet the terms or face foreclosure....
A spouse’s reaction to the news of divorce can vary widely. The significance and repercussions of divorce often make it difficult for spouses to cooperate with each other, and some may even feel compelled to engage in actions designed to punish or hurt the other spouse. One form of revenge, or perhaps just simple disregard for the laws of marriage and divorce, involves one spouse wasting or destroying marital assets during the time surrounding the divorce, thereby depriving the other spouse of the ability to receive these assets in a property settlement.
The financial fallout of divorce is one of the most difficult consequences that couples must face, and both spouses may struggle to support themselves if the terms of the divorce are not properly structured. The division of marital property is a huge part of finding financial security following divorce, and if one spouse deliberately misuses marital assets, this can put the other spouse in financial jeopardy.
Property Division During Divorce
Illinois follows the equitable division of property model, meaning marital assets will be divided according to what is most fair. Most settlements are roughly equal, unless circumstances require a different outcome....
Divorce reaches every aspect of a person's life, and often requires adjustments in both behavior and outlook to make the transition possible. People tend to focus on the legal procedure, since divorce has such a pivotal role in finalizing the outcome, but this tendency can make addressing the practical issues of divorce more difficult, as well as ways of approaching the divorce process itself.
The purpose of divorce is to legally end a marriage, but the route taken to arrive at that point does not necessarily need to involve a drawn out, highly-litigated case, though litigation is sometimes necessary. Other, less contentious options are available and worth exploring for some couples.
The stereotypical image of a divorcing spouse doing everything possible to make the other party look bad is, unfortunately, not always an exaggeration. However, Courts are not interested in hearing divorcing spouses badmouth one another and will generally not give this type of information any consideration unless false allegations are made that significantly affect a party's rights. Under these circumstances, the situation changes and becomes more than bickering that may be disregarded.
Falsifying documents or making untrue allegations principally affects a party's rights in property distribution and the allocation of parental responsibilities. Typically, false allegations come in the form of claims of abuse (child and/or domestic), drug use and submissions of fabricated financial affidavits/documents.
While dishonesty between spouses is rarely worth taking legal action, lying or misleading a Court can result in serious consequences. Statements made directly to the Judge and documents filed with the Court all come with the stipulation that the information provided is true and accurate. If the Court later discovers a party intentionally lied or provided erroneous information, the potential consequences can reach both the outcome of the divorce case and include the imposition of criminal penalties....
The build-up that leads to the end of a marriage can be slow and methodical, with each spouse looking for ways to avoid the potential unfortunate outcome. The last step some couples take, before starting formal divorce proceedings, is to separate for a period of time in one final effort to salvage the marriage.
Periods of separation are commonly informal, and spouses mutually and privately decide how living arrangements, child custody and finances will be handled. Additionally, periods of separation will typically lead to either reconciliation or divorce; however, couples do have the option of formalizing their separation with the Courts.
Legal separation may be a mere formality before initiating divorce, or separation could be an in-between arrangement a couple remains in for a significant period of time. Legal separation provides most of the legal mechanisms and benefits offered in divorce, yet this process stops short of dissolving the marriage. Consider the following suggestions as to when couples may want to consider legal separation over divorce, the drawbacks of separation and how Courts handle these petitions....
The divorce process requires both spouses to accept and expect that a considerable amount of money will be spent to dissolve the marriage. The expense of divorce is especially an issue for couples with high net-worth, and the associated complications often relate to property division and spousal maintenance.
One cost that parties are particularly reluctant to pay is attorney fees. While this cost may seem like a considerable amount, divorce attorneys provide valuable services that contribute to the outcome of Court decisions on pivotal issues, such as child custody and the division of assets. However, which party pays attorney fees is a common negotiating point in divorce settlement agreements between wealthy spouses.
The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued a ruling in a case on the issue of attorney fees in a divorce that involved a considerable amount of litigation initiated by the same party. This decision could impact how legal fees are paid in divorce cases going forward, making the exploration of the Court's rationale necessary....