Guardian Ad Litem Missouri

A Guardian Ad Litem Missouri may be appointed in Missouri divorce or custody cases and is required in parental child abuse or neglect cases. The Guardian Ad Litem or GAL represents the child’s best interests in court.

Guardian Ad Litem Missouri

If you are facing a child custody case in Springfield or general Missouri family court case involving children, you may have heard of a Guardian ad Litem or GAL. You may be questioning why a Guardian ad Litem is being designated to assist or wondering what their duty is. In a nutshell, a Guardian ad Litem Missouri is an attorney assigned to stand for the child’s best interest. 

Although a Guardian ad Litem is an attorney, she or he is not the attorney of your child and does not need to adhere to the child’s wishes or keep any communication with the child confidential.

A Guardian ad Litem Missouri may be assigned in paternity actions, adoptions, modifications, dissolutions, and certain neglect or abuse cases. The Guardian ad Litem’s role is to investigate the case and recommend a solution to the court. In most cases, the Guardian ad Litem’s investigation primarily involves informal separate meetings and interviews with the parties and the children in addition to other individuals who could have relevant information regarding the child’s welfare. They may also ask other experts for input and testimony in the case. 

The Guardian ad Litem serves in the case until either the parents come to a written agreement that resolves the issues and the judge then approves it, or if there is a hearing and the case is decided by the judge. If the Guardian ad Litem Missouri is no longer necessary, the judge can discharge them. However, if the case is appealed, the Guardian ad Litem is involved in the appeal process unless ordered otherwise. If your case has a new motion filed in the future, the same or a different Guardian ad Litem Missouri may be appointed.

If you have specific questions about your Missouri family law case, the attorneys at Masterson Law can help.

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Child Order of Protection Missouri

Missouri’s Child Protection Orders Act provides protective relief for children who have been victims of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault.

Ordered by a Missouri court pursuant to the Child Protection Orders Act, an order of protection restrains someone from committing or threatening to commit stalking, domestic violence, or sexual assault on a child 17 years of age or younger. 

As opposed to a restraining order, violating an order or protection carries criminal penalties. Protection orders issued under the Child Protection Orders Act are effective in all cities and counties throughout the state of Missouri. 

Missouri Child Order of Protection Statute

There are two types of orders of protection: an ex parte order of protection and a full order of protection.

An ex parte order of protection is a temporary order issued by the court before the person against whom the order is directed has received notice of the petition or an opportunity to be heard in court. 

A full order of protection is issued after a hearing on the record when the person against whom the order is directed has received notice of the proceedings and has had an opportunity to be heard. 

A child order of protection petition shall be filed in the residential county of the child, where the domestic violence or sexual assault incident occurred, or where the respondent may be served. Petitions are generally filed in the office of the circuit clerk but may be filed in the associate division if mandated by the rule of the local circuit court. Any associate or circuit judge who is available and has jurisdiction to hear the petition could enter the order.

If you are seeking a Missouri Child Order of Protection, a Guardian ad Litem Missouri will be appointed. Learn more about Missouri child custody laws here.

Guardian ad Litem Missouri and Protective Orders

Whatever custody situation you’re pursuing, we’re here to help.

Missouri Guardian Ad Litem Process

The process of becoming a Missouri Guardian ad Litem is fairly straightforward. 

First, the Administrative Judge of the Family Court requests that all attorneys who have not already done so and are interested in serving as Guardians ad Litem in juvenile and/or family court matters complete an affidavit. 

In addition to this, there are a number of standards and training requirements for a Guardian ad Litem Missouri to be approved and subsequently appointed to a case.

Missouri Guardian Ad Litem Standards

When appointing a Guardian ad Litem for a child, the court shall only appoint a lawyer licensed by the Supreme Court who has completed the training required (outlined below) and who agrees to abide by certain standards.

Among other things, the Missouri Guardian ad Litem standards require that the GAL “shall provide not only factual information to the court but also shall diligently advocate a position in the best interests of the child.” Another standard for the Guardian ad Litem is that they have reasonable access to the child in question, and vice versa.  

The full text of Missouri Guardian ad Litem standards can be read online.

Missouri Guardian Ad Litem Training

The Missouri Supreme Court requires that Guardians ad Litem take an 8-hour and a 3-hour continuing legal education (CLE) course. 

In these courses, hopeful Guardians ad Litem learn the legal framework for cases involving allegations of abuse and neglect in addition to child representation, how to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect, vital aspects of trauma and family dynamics that frequently impact the families involved, how attachments and bonding play a role in planning for permanency, and the legal ethics of representing different parties in domestic cases.

Missouri Guardian Ad Litem Statute

MO Rev Stat § 210.160 states the following on Guardians ad Litem: 

  1. In all proceedings for child custody or for dissolution of marriage or legal separation where custody, visitation, or support of a child is a contested issue, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem. Disqualification of a guardian ad litem shall be ordered in any legal proceeding only pursuant to this chapter, upon the filing of a written application by any party within ten days of appointment, or within ten days of August 28, 1998, if the appointment occurs prior to August 28, 1998. Each party shall be entitled to one disqualification of a guardian ad litem appointed under this subsection in each proceeding, except a party may be entitled to additional disqualifications of a guardian ad litem for good cause shown.
  2. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem in any proceeding in which child abuse or neglect is alleged.
  3. The guardian ad litem shall:
    (1) Be the legal representative of the child at the hearing, and may examine, cross-examine, subpoena witnesses and offer testimony;
    (2) Prior to the hearing, conduct all necessary interviews with persons having contact with or knowledge of the child in order to ascertain the child’s wishes, feelings, attachments and attitudes. If appropriate, the child should be interviewed;
    (3) Request the juvenile officer to cause a petition to be filed in the juvenile division of the circuit court if the guardian ad litem believes the child alleged to be abused or neglected is in danger.
  4. The appointing judge shall require the guardian ad litem to faithfully discharge such guardian ad litem’s duties, and upon failure to do so shall discharge such guardian ad litem and appoint another. The judge in making appointments pursuant to this section shall give preference to persons who served as guardian ad litem for the child in the earlier proceeding, unless there is a reason on the record for not giving such preference.
  5. The guardian ad litem shall be awarded a reasonable fee for such services to be set by the court. The court, in its discretion, may:
    (1) Issue a direct payment order to the parties. If a party fails to comply with the court’s direct payment order, the court may find such party to be in contempt of court; or
    (2) Award such fees as a judgment to be paid by any party to the proceedings or from public funds. Such an award of guardian fees shall constitute a final judgment in favor of the guardian ad litem. Such final judgment shall be enforceable against the parties in accordance with chapter 513, RSMo.
  6. The court may designate volunteer advocates, who may or may not be attorneys licensed to practice law, to assist in the performance of the guardian ad litem duties for the court. The volunteer advocate shall be provided with all reports relevant to the case made to or by any agency or person and shall have access to all records of such agencies or persons relating to the child or such child’s family members. Any such designated person shall receive no compensation from public funds. This shall not preclude reimbursement for reasonable expenses.

The Guardian ad Litem Process in Missouri Can Be Confusing.

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Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect

The federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires states to document in their state plan provisions for appointing a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of the child in every alleged abuse or neglect case that results in a judicial proceeding.

Missouri Guardian Ad Litem in Abuse Cases

Under State of Missouri Law, if child abuse or neglect is alleged in a child custody case, the court must appoint a Guardian ad Litem. 

However, if the court finds that appointing a Guardian ad Litem Missouri would be helpful in custody cases in the absence of alleged abuse or neglect, a Guardian as Litem may be appointed as well.

Guardian Ad Litem Missouri Cost

In a child custody case, the judge will decide who pays for the Guardian ad Litem. In many cases, each parent is responsible for half of the total costs of the Guardian ad Litem Missouri. This cost most often ranges from $1,000 to $3,000. If the parents are required by the court to pay for the Guardian ad Litem, they may need to pay an initial deposit in addition to periodic payments to the Guardian ad Litem Missouri during the case. 

Keep in mind, however, that Missouri courts hold that in adult abuse or child order of protection cases, the courts cannot mandate that the victim pays the Guardian ad Litem’s costs.

Guardian Ad Litem Missouri Complaints

If your Guardian ad Litem does not do their duties, you may complain to the presiding judge in your circuit. After enough complaints, the judges may start changing how the Guardians ad Litem are appointed or start appointing different ones for their cases. A family law attorney can help you draft your complaint and verify if it is reasonable.

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Guardian Ad Litem in Missouri

The State of Missouri Court has a list of approved and qualified Guardians ad Litem. Before choosing a Guardian ad Litem Missouri for your child, it is best to contact a Missouri family law attorney to discuss the Guardians ad Litem on the court’s list. Your attorney will offer feedback on the skill and ability of the Guardians ad Litem on the list and help you evaluate who is best suited to work on your case.

Guardian Ad Litem Office Missouri

A Missouri family law attorney like those at Masterson Law will likely have experience with Guardians ad Litem who work in the court where your case is taking place. Choosing the right Guardian ad Litem is an important process that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Rather, it should be a calculated process that all parties, including your attorney and the court, are involved in. 

If you are in the process of having a Guardian ad Litem Missouri appointed to your family law case, don’t hesitate to contact the dedicated family law attorneys at Masterson Law. From divorce Springfield MO to child custody modification and Guardian ad Litem, Masterson Law can assist with all family law matters and is a tenacious advocate for her clients.

Missouri Guardian ad Litem

Let us help you navigate Missouri’s GAL laws.

CONTACT SUMMER

Summer Masterson-Goethals
Consumer and family lawyer, former legal aid attorney and Missouri Bar Leadership Academy member, Springfield Business Journal 40 under 40 Honoree. Site Map

Masterson Law
1771 S. Fremont
Springfield, MO 65804
(417) 522-1280

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