By Martin Sliwinski, Divorce and Family Law Attorney
When working with parents during divorce, our team at Stern Perkoski Mendez is always focused on finding the best outcome possible for any children involved. Often, this means working with a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) or Child Representative (Child Rep), both of whom evaluate children’s living situations and make custody recommendations.
In the past, I’ve worked with parents who strongly disagreed with the GAL or Child Rep’s recommendation, leaving them feeling upset and often powerless.
Luckily, if you disagree with the GAL or Child Rep assigned to your case, you’re not out of options: you can hire a 604.10 evaluator to reassess the case and determine what’s best for your children and family. Let’s take a deeper look at the role 604.10 evaluators play and if one may be right for you.
What is a 604.10 evaluator?
A 604.10 evaluator is a professional who assists the court in making a decision about children’s best interests in a divorce proceeding. The name comes from the Section of the Illinois Marriage and Divorce Act that provides for such experts and their unique role in any divorce proceedings.
The details of your situation will determine the professional 604.10 appropriate for your case. For example, a psychologist may be better suited to evaluate your child than a psychiatrist or therapist.
While the 604.10 evaluator’s process is unique to every child, the evaluator typically:
- Collects data about the child’s life
- Conducts collateral interviews with people close to the child and parents
- Conducts psychological and mental health testing through interviews of the parents and children, and written questionnaires for all involved
- Employs scientific procedures, such as statistical analysis and citations to medical studies
- Explains limitations and reservations of its own tests and analysis, for example the level of confidence in the expert’s results and data
- Ultimately, develops a report containing an expert custody recommendation.
There are two types of 604.10 evaluators: 604.10(b) evaluators and 604.10(c) evaluators.
- 604.10(b): A 604.10(b) evaluator is the Court’s professional. They report directly to the Court, although both you and your spouse will be made aware of what the report says.The 604.10(b) evaluator’s report can be entered into evidence without any testimony, unless you or your spouse have a good faith objection. However, a 604.10(b) will still testify at any hearings or trials and be subject to cross examination by both parties.
As for who pays, the Court can order one or both parties to jointly pay the 604.10(b). Any amount paid can be revisited at the end of the case through a reallocation of costs.
In essence, the 604.10(b) is a neutral expert utilized by the Court to navigate through two high conflict parents.
- 604.10(c): A 604.10(c) is your (or your spouse’s) professional, rather than the Court’s. They are selected by whoever wishes to retain their expertise. Both you and your spouse may seek a 604.10(c) evaluator individually, and the Court may permit you each to have one. The party who seeks a 604.10(c) evaluator will typically pay the full costs of the report and the cost of the witness testifying, unless the Court orders otherwise.
There is nothing barring a Court from appointing a 604.10(b) and permitting one or more 604.10(c) evaluators. This typically has the result of dueling experts, wherein the Court will have to select the most credible and accurate evaluator whose recommendation falls in line closest with the best interests of the children. This can be a costly process, but is not uncommon for high net worth divorces.
If you’d like to hire a 604.10 evaluator, you first need to file a motion with the Court. Your spouse’s attorney can voice objections—but generally, motions for 604.10s are liberally granted to ensure the children’s best interests are best preserved. The motion would only be denied if the evaluation is untimely or not in the best interests of the children.
How does a 604.10 differ from a Guardian ad Litem or Child Representative?
Some of a 604.10’s role might seem redundant to the work of a Guardian ad Litem or Child Representative. However, a 604.10 is not considered a representative of the child and provides more than just recommendations to the court.
A 604.10 is an expert who collects data, runs analysis, conducts tests and prepares a lengthy and nuanced report of their findings—which may or may not include psychological and sociological findings. A 604.10 is more expensive and will typically take a longer period of time than a GAL or Child Rep to conduct a report or provide recommendations.
Another difference is that a 604.10 can provide recommendations that contradict a GAL or Child Rep. Therefore, if you don’t believe the GAL’s findings are based in fact or rationale, you can elect to appoint a 604.10 to conduct a more in-depth investigation to either verify or contradict a GAL’s recommendation.
A 604.10(c) in particular can be helpful if you’re seeking to add more strength to your position. You have more control in selecting a 604.10(c) than a GAL or Child Rep, as the latter two are chosen and hired by the Court. This gives you more input as to who should conduct the evaluation.
Our team at Stern Perkoski Mendez is connected with a variety of 604.10 evaluators, and we can assist in choosing the right one for your case.
What happens once a 604.10 is appointed to a case?
After a 604.10 evaluator is chosen and appointed to your case, the court will provide conditions of the evaluation. The length and costs of report vary greatly depending on the county, time frame and even the evaluator’s profession.
Ultimately, the evaluator is required to issue a report at least 60 days before the hearing on allocation of parental responsibilities. They will prepare a lengthy and in-depth report to be presented at any hearing or trial. Both your and your spouse’s attorneys will have the chance to either support or question the report by asking questions during court.
In essence, the 604.10 will be treated as an expert witness providing an expert opinion to the Court. If you’re unhappy with your GAL or Child Rep’s finding, pursuing a 604.10(c) evaluator could be the right option for you and your children.
Contact Our Divorce and Family Law Firm in Evanston, Chicago and Lake Forest
If you’d like to explore what your divorce or family law case might look like if you appointed a 604.10 evaluator, my colleagues and I are happy to answer your questions and support you during the process.