Monday, January 7, 2008

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:

For tables reflecting a 51-state analysis of the standards of representation of children in adoption and guardianship, see 41 Family Law Quarterly (Summer 2007) article "Hearing Children's Voices and Interests in Adoption and Guardianship Proceedings" of the American Bar Association Child Custody and Adoption Pro Bono Project.

(last visited Jan 7, 2008 bgf)

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