26.12.172  <<  26.12.175 >>   26.12.177

RCW 26.12.175

Appointment of guardian ad litem—Independent investigation—Court-appointed special advocate program—Background information—Review of appointment.

(1)(a) The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of a minor or dependent child when the court believes the appointment of a guardian ad litem is necessary to protect the best interests of the child in any proceeding under this chapter. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem from the court-appointed special advocate program, if that program exists in the county. The court shall attempt to match a child with special needs with a guardian ad litem who has specific training or education related to the child's individual needs. The family court services professionals may also make a recommendation to the court regarding whether a guardian ad litem should be appointed for the child.
(b) The guardian ad litem's role is to investigate and report factual information regarding the issues ordered to be reported or investigated to the court. The guardian ad litem shall always represent the best interests of the child. Guardians ad litem under this title may make recommendations based upon his or her investigation, which the court may consider and weigh in conjunction with the recommendations of all of the parties. If a child expresses a preference regarding the parenting plan, the guardian ad litem shall report the preferences to the court, together with the facts relative to whether any preferences are being expressed voluntarily and the degree of the child's understanding. The court may require the guardian ad litem to provide periodic reports to the parties regarding the status of his or her investigation. The guardian ad litem shall file his or her report at least sixty days prior to trial.
(c) The parties to the proceeding may file with the court written responses to any report filed by the guardian ad litem. The court shall consider any written responses to a report filed by the guardian ad litem, including any factual information or recommendations provided in the report.
(d) The court shall enter an order for costs, fees, and disbursements to cover the costs of the guardian ad litem. The court may order either or both parents to pay for the costs of the guardian ad litem, according to their ability to pay. If both parents are indigent, the county shall bear the cost of the guardian, subject to appropriation for guardians' ad litem services by the county legislative authority. Guardians ad litem who are not volunteers shall provide the parties with an itemized accounting of their time and billing for services each month.
(2)(a) If the guardian ad litem appointed is from the county court-appointed special advocate program, the program shall supervise any guardian ad litem assigned to the case. The court-appointed special advocate program shall be entitled to notice of all proceedings in the case.
(b) The legislative authority of each county may authorize creation of a court-appointed special advocate program. The county legislative authority may adopt rules of eligibility for court-appointed special advocate program services that are not inconsistent with this section.
(3) Each guardian ad litem program for compensated guardians ad litem and each court-appointed special advocate program shall maintain a background information record for each guardian ad litem in the program. The background information record shall include, but is not limited to, the following information:
(a) Level of formal education;
(b) General training related to the guardian ad litem's duties;
(c) Specific training related to issues potentially faced by children in dissolution, custody, paternity, and other family law proceedings;
(d) Specific training or education related to child disability or developmental issues;
(e) Number of years' experience as a guardian ad litem;
(f) Number of appointments as a guardian ad litem and county or counties of appointment;
(g) The names of any counties in which the person was removed from a guardian ad litem registry pursuant to a grievance action, and the name of the court and the cause number of any case in which the court has removed the person for cause;
(h) Founded allegations of abuse or neglect as defined in RCW 26.44.020;
(i) The results of an examination that shall consist of a background check as allowed through the Washington state criminal records privacy act under RCW 10.97.050 and the Washington state patrol criminal identification system under RCW 43.43.832 through 43.43.834. This background check shall be done through the Washington state patrol criminal identification section; and
(j) Criminal history, as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, for the period covering ten years prior to the appointment.
The background information record shall be updated annually. As a condition of appointment, the guardian ad litem's background information record shall be made available to the court. If the appointed guardian ad litem is not a member of a guardian ad litem program the person appointed as guardian ad litem shall provide the background information record to the court.
Upon appointment, the guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocate program or guardian ad litem program, shall provide the parties or their attorneys with a copy of the background information record. The portion of the background information record containing the results of the criminal background check and the criminal history shall not be disclosed to the parties or their attorneys. The background information record shall not include identifying information that may be used to harm a guardian ad litem, such as home addresses and home telephone numbers, and for volunteer guardians ad litem the court may allow the use of maiden names or pseudonyms as necessary for their safety.
(4) When a court-appointed special advocate or volunteer guardian ad litem is requested on a case, the program shall give the court the name of the person it recommends. The court shall immediately appoint the person recommended by the program.
(5) If a party in a case reasonably believes the court-appointed special advocate or volunteer guardian ad litem is inappropriate or unqualified, the party may request a review of the appointment by the program. The program must complete the review within five judicial days and remove any appointee for good cause. If the party seeking the review is not satisfied with the outcome of the review, the party may file a motion with the court for the removal of the court-appointed special advocate or volunteer guardian ad litem on the grounds the advocate or volunteer is inappropriate or unqualified.
NOTES:
Grievance rules2000 c 124: See note following RCW 11.88.090.
Intent1996 c 249: See note following RCW 2.56.030.
SeverabilityEffective dateCaptions not law1991 c 367: See notes following RCW 26.09.015.