The Different Professionals Involved in an Illinois Divorce or Custody Case

Guardian Ad Litem, Clinical Psychologist, Court Coordinator, who are these people? What’s their role? What should you know about them? That’s what we are going to talk about right now!

Alright, so today’s blog is a quick breakdown of the different people you might interact with in your divorce case.

I’m going to run through the major players here. Keep in mind, if your case is not contested - or even if it is - all of these people might not get involved. But I think it’s helpful to get a full understanding of the lay of the land so you know where to set your expectations if your case does get more heated.

First things first - there’s your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer.

I think we’re all pretty familiar with the role these two have. Your lawyer is your advocate, counselor, and representative. Their job is going to be to fight and bargain for the best deal possible while also giving you advice on where to concede and compromise. 

​Our next character is the judge.

We all have a pretty good understanding of what a judge does from what we’ve seen on TV.

It’s important to understand though that TV court (whether it’s Law and Order or Judge Judy) moves at a pace about a hundred times faster than real life judges.

People often complain that there is case is limping along. Why won’t the judge just make a decision already?? It doesn’t make for great TV but there are very specific rules on when a judge can make a decision about your case. Nine times out of ten, when your case is up in court, the judge is legally not allowed to make a decision on what’s called the “merits” of the case. The merits refer to the substance the case - who gets the kids on what nights, who get the house, etc. The judge can only make decisions on this stuff at hearing or trial. Hearing or trial requires a great deal of preparation by your lawyer and is unpredictable a lot of the time. So in practice, much of a case moving forward comes by agreement. It’s in the best interest of both parties to agree on many things. 

Next up we have the court personnel: that’s the sheriff, the clerk, and the coordinator.

It’s the sheriff’s job to keep order in the court.

It’s the clerk’s job to keep the documents in order and to manage that day’s court call. Court call refers to the case set to be heard that day.

It’s the coordinators job to manage the judge’s calendar and make sure that they are not overbooked.

These three are the ones that really make the court run. 

We already talked about the lawyers, but there is actually one other lawyer that we didn’t talk about - that’s the Child’s Representative or Guardian Ad Litem.

Technically, these two people have slightly different roles but in practicality they both serve the same purpose - they are appointed by the court to protect the best interest of the child.

Usually - unless the parties qualify - it is a private attorney - meaning that you will have to pay the fees of this lawyer.

The Child’s rep or GAL as they are often called will interview the parties, investigate the facts, and make recommendations to the judge.

Their opinion carries a lot of weight with the judge. 

Lastly, we have the clinical psychologist.

The clinical psychologist is another professional that serves at the appointment of the court. Most commonly, they are the court’s expert meaning that they are assumed to be neutral and the parties are splitting the cost of their time and expertise.

A clinical psychologist will only be appointed in cases where the parties are truly at loggerheads unable to agree on the big custody questions (who is going to be the primary parents, who is going to make decisions for the child.)

The psychologist will typically interview the parties, the child or children, and anybody else they feel plays a key role in the upbringing of the child. They will then write a report making an expert recommendation on how the judge should rule in your case.

If you don’t agree with their opinion, you will usually have the option of hiring your own expert psychologist.

So those are your major players. There are certainly other professionals that may play a role in your case, but in nine out of ten cases that’ll be it. 

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About the Author

Robert Buchanan is the founder and manager of The Law Office of Robert B. Buchanan.