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House Bill 213 requires the court to appoint a guardian ad litem for a child with certain limited exceptions at any stage of an abuse or neglect proceeding. The bill also provides for permanent custody to be removed outside the termination of parental rights.
A Guardian ad Litem or a "GAL" is a third party empowered by the state to represent the best interests of children as defined in statute. This law would require courts to appoint one at any stage of an abuse or neglect proceeding. While this may be an appropriate action to take in some cases it should not be required in all cases. GALs do not represent the child as a client (a more common sense thing to do in such a case) but rather represent the child's "best interests"—a vague legal standard that is inherently subjective. In states where GALs are automatically appointed, especially in homeschool related cases, bias is often seen against home education on the part of many GALs. Permitting permanent transfer of custody without a finding of parental unfitness is an end-run around the Supreme Courts standards governing the termination of parental rights. The relationship between parents and children should not be permanently terminated without the highest judicial scrutiny. The U.S. Supreme Court has called terminating parental rights the family court equivalent of the death penalty and requires clear and convincing evidence that it should be done.
|6/18/2013||(House)||Introduced and Referred to Judiciary Committee|
|11/21/2013||(House)||Substitute bill reported by Judiciary Committee|
|1/22/2014||(House)||Passed House on Third Reading|
|1/23/2014||(Senate)||Introduced in Senate and Referred to Civil Justice Committee|
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