Guardians ad Litem and their purpose in Illinois.

What Is a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in Illinois?

What Is a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in Illinois? Understanding a GALs Impactful Role in Family Court.

In the intricate dynamics of family court, where decisions profoundly impact children's lives, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) emerges as a central figure. At NSLAC, we work closely with GALs on our staff and others to ensure that children’s voices are heard, and their interests are protected during challenging family disputes.

In Illinois, a Guardian ad Litem is appointed by the court to serve as an unbiased advocate, dedicated solely to safeguarding the best interests of children involved in a family dispute. Unlike an attorney, a GAL brings a unique perspective focused on the child's welfare. This includes considering the child’s relationships with parents and other relatives, living conditions, and any potential risks that they may face.  

Guardians ad Litem ensure that the voices of children are heard within the legal system. A GAL will provide the court with impartial recommendations regarding custody, visitation, and other matters on what they believe is best for the child based upon research and observation. 

What is the importance of Guardians ad Litem?  

Guardians ad Litem are often referred to as the eyes and ears of the courtroom, helping give judges a complete picture of the child’s situation. GALs play a crucial role in ensuring that the voices of children are heard, and a child’s best interests are protected. GALs provide a unique perspective by uniquely focusing on the child's situation and interests, separate from the interests of parents or other parties involved in the case. By conducting thorough investigations and making recommendations based on the child's needs and well-being, GALs help judges make informed decisions that promote the child's safety, stability, and overall welfare.  

What are some common responsibilities of a Guardian ad Litem? 

Common responsibilities of GALs include conducting interviews with the child, parents, caregivers, and other relevant parties; reviewing documents and records related to the case; observing interactions between the child and others involved; attending court hearings and providing testimony; and making recommendations to the court regarding custody, visitation, and any necessary services or support for the child. 

What distinguishes Guardians ad Litem from other legal representatives, such as attorneys or social workers? 

Unlike attorneys and social workers who typically represent specific parties or provide direct services, Guardians ad Litem independently advocate for a child's best interests. They're appointed by the court as neutral observers, unlike traditional legal representatives. Additionally, GALs can be called as witnesses or cross-examined regarding the Guardian ad Litem report or recommendations, setting them apart from child representatives. 

When and how are Guardian ad Litem appointed? 

Illinois statutes outline that a Guardian at Litem may be appointed in any proceedings involving the support, custody, visitation, allocation of parental responsibilities, education, parentage, property interest, or general welfare of a minor or dependent child. The court can appoint a GAL when parents cannot agree on the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. The motion to appoint a GAL may be made by either the court or as a request by one or both parents.  

GALs are selected from a court’s list of trained and approved attorneys. When appointing a GAL, the court may consider factors like availability and specialization, sometimes assigning specific cases to individuals with special experience serving in similar cases. A complete list of GALs approved to serve in Lake County, Illinois can be found HERE. 

It is important to note that an attorney cannot serve as both legal counsel for a party and as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in the same case. This separation ensures that GALs can maintain impartiality and focus solely on the child's welfare without conflicts of interest. This separation helps uphold the integrity of the GAL role and safeguards the interest of a child within legal proceedings. 

What is NSLAC’s role as GALs?  

NSLAC’s Domestic Violence Law Practice attorneys are trained and approved Guardians ad Litem by the Lake County’s Judicial Circuit. Our attorneys are appointed to serve as pro bono GALs in cases involving domestic violence and financial need. As appointed GALs, NSLAC attorneys leverage their training and knowledge to carefully review each case to ensure the voices of those they represent are heard and considered in court.  

Have more questions?  

Have more questions regarding Guardians ad Litem or domestic violence? Please call NSLAC at 847-737-4042 or email NSLAC provides free legal aid services in the areas of housing, domestic violence, and immigration to low-income residents living in north suburban Cook County or Lake County. Interpreters are available upon request in all languages. Services are available regardless of immigration status.    


“Child Atty/Child Rep/Guardian Ad Litem.”, Accessed 1 Apr. 2024. 

“Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Basics.”, 2024, Accessed 1 Apr. 2024. 

“Illinois General Assembly - Illinois Compiled Statutes.”, Accessed 1 Apr. 2024. 

The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed between NSLAC and the reader. NSLAC is not liable for any action taken or not taken based on this blog. Readers should contact an attorney with any questions regarding the content.
Digital Abuse Legal Help

Protecting Families Against Co-Parental Digital Abuse Through Technology Awareness

Protecting Families Against Co-Parental Digital Abuse Through Technology Awareness

In today's digital age, emerging technologies have become an integral part of everyday life for both children and parents. Devices like children's watches and home security apps offer enticing features such as discreet listening, video surveillance, and location tracking, promising enhanced security, connectivity, and convenience. 

However, beneath the surface of these seemingly beneficial advancements lies a troubling vulnerability: the potential exploitation of these technologies by abusive co-parents. In the hands of dangerous individuals, these seemingly convenient technologies can be misused to manipulate, monitor, and control their victims. 

While these technologies may appear advantageous, it is essential for parents to recognize the risks and take the necessary precautions to safeguard themselves and their children. Below, we delve into the safety measures that can be implemented to ensure the security and well-being of families in the digital age. Thank you to EndTab for providing us with these important updates to educate the public and ensure that victims and communities are aware of the digital measures they can take to protect themselves.  

Children’s Smart Watches:  

Much like smartphones, smartwatches allow parents to locate, monitor, and contact their children from anywhere. While accessible, smartwatches are also equipped with features like geofencing (getting alerts when the device leaves a location), location tracking, and location history. When used for good, they features can provide a sense of safety for parents, however, in the wrong hands, these features can be exploited by an abusive co-parent. Learn about how to mitigate these risks below:  

Learn the Device’s Features:  

Understanding the capabilities of our children’s technologies, particularly its tracking and monitoring features, helps empower parents to make informed decisions when their children are in their care. If you are worried about the capabilities of your child’s technology, we encourage you to research the device and model and take note of its features.  

Disable the Device: 

Parents may consider disabling the device or keeping it out of sight when their child is in their care. While this may help reduce or eliminate monitoring risk, it is essential to acknowledge the potential consequences of cutting off an abusive parent’s access to their victim and children.  

Co-parenting Technology Agreement:  

If possible and safe to do, addressing technology devices in co-parenting agreements can establish a mutual understanding and set boundaries, ensuring both parties agree that any devices for their child should be agreed upon and that both parties consent to the use of integrated tracking technologies.  

Home Security Apps 

Home security apps, often installed on children’s devices, provide real-time surveillance and access to historical recordings. While these apps can enhance safety, they can also be weaponized by an abusive co-parent to monitor another parent’s home without consent. Below are a few ways to mitigate the risk and help parents stay safe from unwanted access monitoring. 

Situationally Delete the App:  

Before visits with an abusive co-parent, victims may consider removing home security apps from their child’s device. This can help prevent unauthorized access to the other parent’s home and privacy when a child is not in their care.  

Confidential Login Credentials: 

Parents can prevent an abusive co-parent from having access to their home security apps by ensuring that their child does not know the login credentials for their home security apps. This may also help reduce the risk that an abusive co-parent accesses this information by coercing the information from children.  

Check Authorized Devices and Shared Users:  

Depending on the app, home security device owners can review the list of authorized users to their account or home security account. Victims can also check their account settings for any shared users who might be added without their consent or knowledge.  

Knowledge is Key 

In navigating the ever-evolving landscape of technology, it's natural to feel overwhelmed, especially if we don't consider ourselves tech experts. Knowledge is key and the best thing we can do is educate the public about these risks. By raising awareness and sharing this information, we can empower individuals to make informed decisions and protect themselves and their children from potential harm. 

The information provided above offers a few actionable steps to keep victims and their children safe from both unwanted and nonconsensual monitoring. As we continue to adapt to new devices and features, ongoing education and vigilance remain paramount in safeguarding digital against abuse and privacy violations. Together, we can work towards a safer digital future for all.  

Get In Touch

If you or someone you know is struggling with digital abuse and is in need of domestic violence legal aid, please be in touch with North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic at 847-737-4042 or email NSLAC also offers free legal aid in the areas of immigration and housing. Services are available regardless of immigration status. 

The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed between NSLAC and the reader. NSLAC is not liable for any action taken or not taken based on this blog. Readers should contact an attorney with any questions regarding the content.
Human Trafficking

Unveiling the Shadows: A Closer Look at Human Trafficking 

Unveiling the Shadows: A Closer Look at Human Trafficking 

Human trafficking is a pervasive global crisis, that ensnares countless individuals, transcending borders and leaving lives shattered in its wake. Recognizing the signs and raising awareness are critical in combating this modern-day slavery. The information below sheds light on the reality of human trafficking and highlights key indicators to help identify abuse and bring an end to the cycle of exploitation and suffering. NSLAC stands as a beacon of hope for victims and survivors, providing free legal assistance and support to help them break free from the abuse.  

What is human trafficking?  

Under U.S. law, human trafficking refers to the exploitation of individuals through the use of force, deception, or coercion to compel them into labor or commercial sex against their will. It is a form of modern-day slavery that transcends borders and impacts millions of women, men and children globally and within the United States. Human trafficking can manifest in various ways, such as forced labor and sex trafficking.  

  • Forced labor involves the exploitation of individuals through coercion, fraud, or force for labor, services, or financial profit.  
  • Sex trafficking occurs when individuals are coerced, deceived, or forced into engaging in commercial sexual activities.  

While it may seem that human trafficking occurs behind closed doors, victims are often hidden in plain sight.  Traffickers target the most vulnerable, often undocumented immigrants, people of color, those in unstable living situations, or previous victims of abuse. Anyone in any community can be a victim of human trafficking and traffickers often blend into the community. 

Recognizing the Signs 

Human trafficking is a diverse and complex crime, often hidden in plain sight. Learning to recognize the signs is the first step in identifying victims and helping save a life.  

Someone may be experiencing human trafficking or exploitation if they: 

  • Do not have access to important documents such as passports, birth certificates, or work authorization cards. 
  • Have no control over their wages or feel compelled to give their wages directly to a third party. 
  • Experience constant monitoring or restrictions on their movements and phone calls. 
  • Were recruited for work under false promises. 
  • Live in dangerous, overcrowded, and inhumane conditions. 
  • Appear disconnected from their family, friends, or community. 
  • Often exhibit signs of fear, paranoia, tension, disorientation, or confusion. 
  • Live and work in isolated conditions. 
  • Show signs of being denied food, water, sleep, or medical care. 
  • Exhibit physical injuries in various stages of healing. 
  • Cannot freely leave where they live or work. 
  • Are coached in what to say when questioned or are often accompanied by someone to whom they defer.

 If you believe you may have information about a trafficking situation, report a tip HERE 

The Impact of Human Trafficking on Victims and Survivors 

The consequences of human trafficking can be deep and prolonged, affecting victims emotionally, physically, and psychologically, often all at once. Survivors often experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and substance abuse. It is also not uncommon for survivors to develop feelings of guilt, shame, or denial, making them reluctant to seek help. 

Recognizing and addressing the trauma of human trafficking is a critical step in a survivor’s path to recovery and well-being. While navigating the trauma of human trafficking can take time, with professional and compassionate trauma-informed support, survivors can begin the journey toward healing and rebuilding their lives beyond the shadows of exploitation and abuse. 

Breaking the Silence and Seeking Help 

Human trafficking has no place in our community, and NSLAC is dedicated to fighting against it. If you or someone you know is showing signs of being a victim of human trafficking, please call 911 or contact the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic (NSLAC). NSLAC offers confidential and free legal help to victims, collaborating closely with law enforcement and other organizations to ensure victims get the professional support and guidance they need. 

If you are in need of free legal services, please contact NSLAC at 847-737-4042 or email If this is an emergency, please call 911 immediately.  

How You Can Help

Human trafficking can occur in any community, and raising public awareness is crucial in our fight against this crime. By learning to recognize the key indicators, raising awareness, and reporting suspected cases of human trafficking, individuals, educators, businesses, and first responders all contribute to dismantling the networks of exploitation.

Here are some effective ways to contribute to raising awareness: 

  • Print or digitally share and distribute NSLAC's human trafficking flyer 
  • Share this blog on social media platforms and other digital channels. 
  • Learn more about human trafficking and recognizing the signs HERE 
  • If you suspect human trafficking activity, report a tip HERE 

 Through education and awareness, we can work together to shine a light on human trafficking and protect the most vulnerable individuals in our communities. 

Know the Signs, Be the Change

We all have the potential to identify a human trafficking case and make a life-saving difference. By learning to recognize the signs, raising awareness, and reporting human trafficking, together we play a critical role in combating this global crisis. No one should live in fear for their life. 

We encourage you to be vigilant and share the information found in this blog to help raise awareness with those around you. Through our collective commitment, we can build a future where every individual can live free from fear and exploitation.  

Additional Resources 

Interested in learning more? The resources below provide more information on human trafficking, reporting a tip, identifying abuse, and educational resources.  


National Human Trafficking Hotline: To report a potential human trafficking situation, call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or submit a tip online here. Learn more about recognizing the signs here 

Domestic Violence: National Domestic Violence Hotline, 24 hour Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 

Dating Violence: National Dating Abuse Helpline, 24 hour Hotline: 1-866-331-9474 

Educational Resources:  

Polaris: Learn more about types of human trafficking HERE 

Blue Campaign: Learn more about human trafficking and find downloadable teaching tools HERE 


Homeland Security. (n.d.). How You Can Help | 

Human Trafficking Capacity Building Center. (n.d.). THE VICTIM’S SAFETY AND WELL-BEING TAKE PRIORITY IN ALL MATTERS. 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2021, January 10) Identify and Assist a Trafficking Victim - United States Department of State 

Polaris. (2019, October 16). How Human Trafficking Happens | Polaris.; Polaris. 

Polaris. (2019, October 16) The Typology of Modern Slavery | Polaris. 

 U.S. Department of State. (2023). About Human Trafficking. United States Department of State. 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2018, October 17). Indicators of Human Trafficking. Department of Homeland Security. 

U.S Department of State. (n.d.). Public Awareness & Training. United States Department of State. 

The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed between NSLAC and the reader. NSLAC is not liable for any action taken or not taken based on this blog. Readers should contact an attorney with any questions regarding the content.

teen dating violence

Breaking the Silence: Understanding and Addressing Teen Dating Violence 

Breaking the Silence: Understanding and Addressing Teen Dating Violence 

Teen dating violence is a prevalent, widespread issue that occurs more frequently than many realize. Studies show that one in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. Any teen can be a victim of dating violence, and some may not even realize that what they are experiencing is abuse. For this reason, it is important to understand the signs of an unhealthy, abusive relationship and raise awareness. Through education, we can empower teens to stay safe from abusive relationships. North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic stands as a steadfast ally for both teens and adults. Together we can end the cycle of violence.  

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence between two adolescents in a close relationship. The abuse can manifest in many various forms, including physical, sexual, emotional/verbal abuse, stalking, and virtual abuse. At its core, Intimate partner violence occurs when a partner is seeking power and control over the other.  

Who is at Risk?  

Teen dating violence can affect anyone, across all genders and socioeconomic groups, however, women, women of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately affected. 

The Signs of Teen Dating Violence for Teens:

A healthy relationship should make us feel good and bring out the best in us and our partners. While the signs of a healthy relationship are often clear, spotting the warning signs of an unhealthy one may not be as straightforward. If you or someone you know identifies with any of these warning signs, they could be experiencing dating violence: 

  • Your partner embarrasses you in front of others. 
  • They control who you can be friends with, where you go, or what you do. 
  • They move really fast at the beginning of the relationship 
  • They’re isolating you from family or friends 
  • They are excessively jealous or are accusing you of being unfaithful without merit 
  • They blame their behavior on you 
  • They are obsessively texting or calling you 
  • They threaten to hurt you or themselves because of something you did 
  • They’re having fits of rage when you’re alone but are nice with other people 
  • If you feel like they’re tracking you – they show up where you are even if you didn’t tell them where you are 

If you have identified yourself with any of these warning signs, look for someone you trust and talk to them. This can be your parents, your guardian, your friends, your school counselor, nurse, teacher, social worker, coach, whoever you trust – talk to them. Together, you can create a safety plan to help you leave an abusive relationship or help you respond to different scenarios. Learn more about safety plans below.  

If you have questions or concerns about an abusive relationship, please reach out to NSLAC. Support is always available.  

The Signs of Teen Dating Violence for Parents and Adults:

The warning signs of an unhealthy relationship may be very subtle, and it may be easy for teens to make a very convincing argument that they are okay. Below are some signs to look out for if you believe your teen is experiencing dating violence:  

  • Spending a lot less time with friends that they usually hang out with  
  • Declining grades, especially if a student used to have really good ones 
  • Covering up injuries or an explanation that doesn’t match the injury 
  • Not engaging in activities that they used to love 
  • Being anxious or nervous around their partner, or being concerned they’ll upset their partner 
  • Apologizing for their partner’s behavior or making excuses for it 
  • Extreme mood swings 
  • Unexplained medical issues like stomach issues, sleep problems, anxiety, chest pains, etc. 

How to Help a Teen Experiencing Teen Dating Violence?  

Adults, if you suspect your teen is in an abusive relationship, prepare before approaching them. Communication is key. We encourage you to do research on healthy and unhealthy relationships. When you are prepared to talk, choose an appropriate time and place, and discuss what you've observed with your teen. Encourage your teen to share their perspective and listen without judgment. 

It is not easy for teens to open up about something like this, so it is important to be understanding and assure them that they have done nothing wrong.  

And finally, believe what you hear. Avoid questioning or doubting. Ask your teen what they want to do next and be prepared to make a safety plan that fits their situation. If you need guidance, call us at North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic. 

What is a Safety Plan? 

A safety plan is a series of personalized and practical steps someone can take to improve their safety while experiencing abuse, preparing to leave their abusive situation or after they leave.   

Safety plans are tailored to the specific needs of the person and help them prepare and respond to scenarios, especially high-stress ones. Create a personal safety plan HERE. 

Seeking Support and Legal Guidance:

If you have identified yourself with any of the warning signs above, look for someone you trust and talk to them. If this is happening to a friend of yours, talk to someone you trust. If this is an emergency, please call 911 immediately.  

If you need legal assistance, North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic (NSLAC) provides free legal services to victims of abuse and violence. We can provide you with legal help to feel safe and heard.  

NSLAC provides legal support and assistance with orders of protection (for people with a pre-existing relationship), civil no-contact orders (typically used in cases of sexual assault), or stalking no-contact orders (where there might not be a romantic or family relationship but someone is still fearing for their safety and emotional well-being).  

If you or someone you know needs legal help or support, please contact NSLAC at 847-737-4042 or email 

Tips for Adults to Help Promote Healthy Relationship:  

Be a role model: Let the teens in your life see you treating your loved ones with the building blocks of a healthy relationship—compassion. respect and kindness.  

Talk and Listen: It is never too early to talk about respect. Communication is key. Engage in conversation with your teen about boundaries and consent and offer guidance on how to set their own boundaries.  

Talk About Dating: Ask your teen how they would like to be treated in a relationship and provide examples of what is and is not acceptable in a relationship. 

Encourage Open Communication: Let teens know that you are someone they can rely on without judgment. Engage them in positive adult-teen communication that makes them feel seen and heard. 

Conversations like this can be intimidating, but much like we want teenagers to receive respect from others, we also show respect for them through open and honest communication. 

Together We Break the Cycle:  

It is important that we continue the conversation of dating violence and healthy relationships. Please share this blog with your friends, and family, and on social media. Through collective awareness, we can continue to shed light on this prevalent issue that affects teens everywhere. Together, we can break the silence and end the cycle of abuse.

 Additional Resources:  

Love is Respect: Find resources on safety planning, how to talk to someone you think might be being abused, you can get individual support from experts on what to do. Hotlines are open 24/7. 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Find information on the different kinds of abuse as well as identifying warning signs. Hotlines are open 24/7. 

North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic: Find additional resources, hotlines, and safety plans. 

The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed between NSLAC and the reader. NSLAC is not liable for any action taken or not taken based on this blog. Readers should contact an attorney with any questions regarding the content.


Create a safety plan. (n.d.). Love Is Respect. 

Fast Facts: Preventing Teen Dating Violence |Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC. (2023, July 23). 

How to help your child. (n.d.). Love Is Respect. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from 

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. (2024, February). Love Is Respect. 


Warning signs of abuse. (n.d.). Love Is Respect. 

What is a Safety Plan? (n.d.). The Hotline. 

Free Legal Aid in Mount Prospect

Free Legal Consultations in the Village of Mount Prospect

In partnership with the Village of Mount Prospect, NSLAC offers monthly virtual and free legal consultations to low-income individuals in the areas of domestic violence, housing, and immigration. Registration is required.

Time and Date: The second Thursday of every month

Location: Community Connection Center, 1711 W. Algonquin Rd., Mount Prospect IL

To schedule an appointment, contact the Human Service Department at 847-506 4930

New Trier Township, Free Virtual Legal Aid Consultations


In partnership with New Trier Township, NSLAC offers monthly free legal aid clinics to low-income individuals in the areas of domestic violence, housing, and immigration.

Clinics are virtual, but individuals have the option to access meetings on Township computers at New Trier Township Hall, located at 739 Elm Street.

Time and Date: The third Wednesday of each month, from 10:00 AM to noon. Appointments are required. 

To schedule a consultation, visit, call the township at 847-446-8202 or call NSLAC at 847-737-4042.

Immigration Legal Aid near Maine Township Illinois

Free Legal Consultations in Maine Township

We are pleased to partner with Maine Township to host virtual, free legal consultations for housing, immigration, and domestic violence, for Maine Township residents in need on the third Wednesday of each month. See flyer for details.

Date and Time: Last Wednesday of each month. Four appointment slots are available per clinic.

Location: Maine Township, 1700 Ballard Rd., Park Ridge

To schedule an appointment, please call 847-297-2510 x25

Free Legal Aid near Maine Township
Ayuda legal gratuita en Maine Township