Oversight of a group that advocates for the best interests of children in protection and parental rights cases will change.
Sponsored by Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) and Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul), a new law transfers the guardian ad litem function from the judicial branch to an independent board. State appropriations currently directed to the courts to oversee the program will also be transferred.
Modeled after the Public Defense Board, which supervises Minnesota’s public defender system, the law aims to eliminate the conflict of interest between guardians, who represent the best interest of the child, but are appointed and paid for by the court system.
The seven-member board will be comprised of four gubernatorial appointees and three members appointed by the Supreme Court, one of whom must have former guardian ad litem experience. An active judge cannot serve, but a retired one can. Registered lobbyists cannot be appointed.
Guardian ad litems conduct an independent investigation to determine the facts relevant to the situation of a child and family, including observing the child in the home setting and considering the child’s wishes. They then present written reports and recommendations concerning the child’s best interests to the court.
The law, signed May 11 by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, takes effect July 1, 2010.
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