Working to transform the child welfare system.

SB 6447 states that the court shall only appoint a guardian ad litem from the guardian ad litem (GAL) program or court-appointed special advocate (CASA) program. While the GAL represents the best interest of the child, the bill states that recommendations based upon his or her investigation must be substantiated through accurate factual information and may only be made according to the guardian ad litem’s training and licensing. A guardian ad litem may not make recommendations based upon mental health, physical health, or other special circumstance without the aid of a licensed professional for that field of study. The court shall strike all nonprofessional recommendations from the guardian ad litem report.

Additionally, SB 6447 states that the court may not award fees for services rendered without the guardian ad litem first submitting an itemized accounting of his or her time and billing. Also, the county legislative authority must now adopt rules of eligibility for CASA program services that are consistent with the bill.

SB 6447 states that cases involving mental or physical health, limiting factors, or other issues outside of the GAL licensing must have a licensed professional for that field appointed to assist the court in examining potential long-term effects on ability to parent.

The bill also requires the GAL to notify each party and court of any actual or potential conflicts of interest prior to accepting appointment. Failure to do so results in immediate dismissal of the GAL and all reports and documents from the court case. A party knowingly withholding conflict of interest information is guilty of a misdemeanor conflict. 

Courts are prohibited from adopting or acting upon the guardian ad litem report or recommendations prior to each party to the proceeding having at least 30 days to respond to any report or recommendation filed by the guardian ad litem.