A Call to Action ~ Together We Are Stronger supports these proposed reforms to the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program.
These are measures that the Minnesota State Guardian ad Litem Board retains authority under the mandated and permissive duties of the Board.
Please feel free to leave your comments, thoughts and ideas below!
1) Eliminate self-recommended GAL extensions of appointment. GALs must follow the court rules of procedure.
2) Enforce existing GAL statutes. Educate guardians, attorneys and judicial officers on the existing statutes, and any changes.
3) Enforce existing prohibitions on GAL ex parte case communication with judicial officers.
4) Prohibit a GAL from recommending specific mental health professionals/businesses by name, or name of provider. The GAL can make recommendations for services however; they cannot recommend specific providers or businesses.
5) Articulate a published process that a GAL must abide by and consider before recommending to severely restrict or suspend parenting time.
6) Identify the appointed GAL, by name, in all court filings & orders throughout proceedings.
7) Require family court GALs to attend specialized training about domestic violence and ongoing impact and challenges for the entire family and co-parenting arrangements as part of the annual training.
8) Eliminate GAL hearsay; GAL’s must submit evidence supporting their reports, and that evidence must become a part of the record (similar to confidential or financial information) and it must be available to the Court, the parties and/or their attorneys, and any appellate court.
9) Prohibit oral only court reports as well as courtroom recommendations that differ significantly from the GAL’s formal report filed with the court. A GAL should file a supplemental report to accommodate new information to avoid an “ambush” situation the day of the hearing.
10) Prohibit a GAL from engaging in the unauthorized practice of medicine, including in the chemical and mental health subspecialties, by suggesting diagnoses, providing diagnoses, interpretations or treatment planning.
11) Mandate that a GAL must relay to the court mental and chemical health professional’s diagnoses & treatment plans verbatim by the qualified professionals, without their own unqualified interpretation.
12) The GAL file must be made available for review by parties and/or their attorneys. GAL’s have the same requirements for disclosure and discovery as all participant and parties.
13) Enforce GAL filing deadlines and adherence to the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedures.
14) Create an external web-based process for submitting GAL complaints and general feedback.
15) Provide for an external review process of review for submitted complaints and to provide oversight to ensure the complaints are investigated and appropriately handled with actionable outcomes, where appropriate.
16) Metrics should be gathered throughout the stages of the engagement and complaint process.
17) Provide written findings to the parties when a GAL has been found to have engaged in material misconduct.
18) Appoint a permanent GAL Advisory Committee to make recommendations to assist the State Guardian ad Litem Board in its duties and to report to the board on issues related to the guardian ad litem program.
The GAL Advisory Committee should be mandated to include members of the public, which may include parents who have been involved in the family court system (as long as their case is not active as this would be a conflict of interest). The Advisory Committee shall be subject to the provisions of 15.059 ADVISORY COUNCILS AND COMMITTEES.