Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Guardian ad Litem or Attorney for the Child?

The Family Law Prof Blog yesterday issued the following post, which in discussing a recent Iowa appellate case also pointed to several other useful sources that explore some issues regarding the appropriate roles of, and distinctions that should be made between, guardians ad litem, appointed by courts to investigate issues in custody and abuse and neglect cases, and lawyers appointed to represent children:

Family Law Prof Blog: Case Law Development: Attorney for Child May Not Act as GAL

"The confusion between the status of attorney for the child and guardian ad litem was the target of appeal in Marriage of Anderson, an Iowa Court of Appeals decision. In this case, Mother requested appointment of a guardian ad litem in a custody case. However, the trial court's response was to appoint an attorney under the Iowa statute allowing appointment of an attorney for the child. The court then rejected the attorney's report and request to testify, finding that the attorney had not been appointed as a guardian ad litem.

Read In Re Marriage of Anderson (Iowa Court of Appeals, Dec. 28, 2007) (Last visited January 7, 2008 bgf)

The case is a fine example of the continuing debate regarding the role of attorney representatives for children. The Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Children in Custody Cases require that a judge appointing a lawyer for a child specify whether the attorney is a “Child’s Attorney” or a “Best Interests Attorney.” The ABA’s Standards of Practice for Attorneys Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases, while recognizing the hybrid attorney/guardian ad litem role for lawyers under certain circumstances, expresses a clear preference for the attorney for the child model. Based in part on these standards, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws is preparing a Uniform Representation of Children in Abuse and Neglect and Custody Proceedings Act. Professor Atwood's fine article exploring the policy choices in the uniform act can be accessed from her SSRN page: Atwood, Barbara Ann, "The New Uniform Representation of Children in Abuse, Neglect, and Custody Proceedings Act: Bridging the Divide Between Pragmatism and Idealism" . Family Law Quarterly, 2007 Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=938211


For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see Law Offices of Steven Ballard.

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