The Court Process Once a Child Representative is Appointed
The court will assess whether it is necessary or helpful to order the appointment of a child representative either on its own motion or upon the request of either of the parties or their attorney. If the court determines that a child representative is warranted, an order will be entered appointing either the Office of the Public Guardian or a private attorney chosen by the court. Once the appointment is made, the parties must ensure that the child representative receives a copy of the court order as well as any other relevant information, including pleadings and orders previously entered in the case. Once the child representative accepts the case, they will file an appearance with the court. Then, they will send a letter asking to set up an appointment for an interview. If you are represented by an attorney, the child representative must have permission from your attorney to meet with you or to speak with you without your attorney present.
The child representative will want to meet with each parent separately. The attorney will also want to meet with the child, and may or may not request that you bring the child with you for that first appointment. Later, the child representative may want to see your child at their school or even in your home or the home of the other parent.
The child representative will ask you to sign consents to obtain information from various sources in order to fully investigate your case. This may mean getting your written permission to obtain medical records (yours or the child’s), records from DCFS, therapy records, school records and other important records. You may also have records in your possession that you would like to share with the child representative regarding your case.
Once the child representative begins the investigative process, they may determine that certain services would be beneficial to the child or to you. Those services might include therapy, parenting classes, drug and alcohol treatment or assessments, a mental health assessment, or any number of other services, depending on the circumstances of your case. In many cases, the court may require the assistance of a professional to determine what is best for your child. This is often referred to as a “604(b),” which is the citation to the statute regarding evaluations. If the court orders an evaluation, you will be informed by the court or your lawyer about what is expected of you to ensure that the evaluation takes place.
Your child’s representative will eventually take a position and let the court (and you and your attorney) know that position. The child representative may try to set up a settlement conference, or circulate a draft agreement for your review and comment. If you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement as to custody or visitation, the court will conduct a hearing and make a decision on the issues in the case.