HB1515 (2022) Detail

Relative to procedures for guardians ad litem in family court proceedings.


HB 1515  - AS INTRODUCED

 

 

2022 SESSION

22-2337

07/04

 

HOUSE BILL 1515

 

AN ACT relative to procedures for guardians ad litem in family court proceedings.

 

SPONSORS: Rep. Gay, Rock. 8; Rep. Stapleton, Sull. 5; Rep. Langley, Hills. 8; Rep. Booras, Hills. 33; Rep. Kofalt, Hills. 4; Rep. Cali-Pitts, Rock. 30; Rep. Bernardy, Rock. 16; Rep. McWilliams, Merr. 27; Rep. Post, Hills. 4

 

COMMITTEE: Children and Family Law

 

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ANALYSIS

 

This bill:

 

I.  Establishes time equity among parties to cases where a guardian ad litem is appointed.

 

II.  Clarifies the guardian ad litem billing requirements.

 

III.  Establishes the rights for parties to a case where a guardian ad litem is appointed to approve, refuse, or report to the appropriate licensing board the illegal activity of a guardian ad litem or counselor.

 

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

22-2337

07/04

 

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twenty Two

 

AN ACT relative to procedures for guardians ad litem in family court proceedings.

 

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

 

1  Parental Rights and Responsibilities; Guardian ad Litem.  Amend RSA 461-A:16 to read as follows:

461-A:16  Guardian ad Litem.

I.  In contested proceedings under RSA 461-A, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for a minor child when the court has reason for special concern regarding the welfare of the child.  The role of the guardian ad litem shall be to gather information to assist the court in determining the best interests of the child.  In determining whether to appoint a guardian ad litem, the court shall consider:

(a)  The wishes of the parties;

(b)  The age of the child;

(c)  The nature of the proceeding, including the contentiousness of the hearing;

(d)  The financial resources of the parties;

(e)  The extent to which a guardian ad litem may assist in providing information concerning the best interest of the child;

(f)  Whether the family has experienced a history of domestic abuse;

(g)  Abuse of the child by one of the parties;

(h)  The educational needs of the child; and

(i)  Any other factors the court deems relevant.

I-a.  The court shall specify the issues to be addressed by the guardian ad litem in his or her report and may otherwise limit the role of the guardian ad litem.

I-b.  The guardian ad litem may participate in hearings and conferences by telephone, except for evidentiary hearings on parenting.

I-c.  The guardian ad litem shall file a report of his or her investigation no later than the date of the final pretrial hearing.  The report shall not propose any of the following unless specifically requested by the court:

(a)  An allocation of decision-making responsibility;

(b)  A parenting plan; or

(c)  A specific parenting schedule.

I-d.  At the court's request or with the court's approval, the guardian ad litem may file a supplemental report on specific issues.  A preliminary or temporary report shall not be required unless one is ordered by the court due to the extraordinary or special circumstances of the case.

II.  Persons accepting appointment as guardians ad litem agree to serve as officers of the court and have such standing in the proceedings as the court deems appropriate and may, upon approval of the court, utilize the service of others found necessary by the court to represent the child's best interest.

III.  Guardians ad litem shall respect communications between themselves and the child and shall disclose such information only as required by the court in rendering a report.  All parties to the case shall have access to, and receive a copy of, any report made by the guardian ad litem unless the court explicitly finds that such disclosure is not in the child's best interest.  When the child's ability to make adequately considered decisions in connection with the representation is impaired, whether because of minority, mental disability, or some other reason, the guardian ad litem shall be the holder of the privilege and shall have the authority to waive the privilege, but only if the guardian ad litem reasonably believes that the child cannot adequately act in the child's own interest.

III-a.  The guardian at litem, in the course of their appointment, shall offer to meet with both parties simultaneously, with each party separately, or any combination of those options for equal amounts of time.

IV.  When a guardian ad litem is appointed pursuant to this section, the court shall establish a maximum fee for the appointment in accordance with this section.

(a)  When appointing a guardian ad litem to be paid from a state fund, the court shall establish an hourly rate in writing and a maximum fee for the appointment, which shall not exceed the hourly rate and maximum fee established by court rule for abuse and neglect cases.  No funding from a state fund for guardian ad litem fees shall be available to a party whose income is 200 percent or more of the federal poverty level.

(b)  When appointing a guardian ad litem to be paid directly by the parties, the hourly rate in writing and maximum fee for the appointment shall be established by written agreement between the guardian ad litem and the parties.  The hourly rate shall be not more than twice the rate for state fund cases and shall not exceed 23 hours, unless the parties agree otherwise. The fees for services of the guardian ad litem and others utilized by the guardian and approved by the court shall be a charge against the parties in an itemized bill, which may be requested by any party at any time during the guardian ad litem's appointment and which shall be paid upon the conclusion of the guardian ad litem's services.  The bill shall be paid by the parties in a proportional amount, as determined by the court.  In determining the responsibility for payment or repayment, the court shall consider:

(1)  The income of the parties;

(2)  The marital or nonmarital assets of the parties;

(3)  The division of property made as part of the final divorce, if applicable;

(4)  Which party requested appointment of the guardian ad litem; and

(5)  Other relevant factors.

V.  The guardian ad litem shall not exceed the maximum fee for the appointment, or provide services, without prior approval from the court, after a hearing.  If the parties agree to the guardian ad litem's request to exceed the maximum fee, the hearing may be waived.

VI.  Unless otherwise ordered by the court or by agreement of the parties, the services of the guardian ad litem shall conclude upon the issuance of the final order.

VII.  The parties shall have the right to approve, refuse, or report to the appropriate licensing board the illegal behavior of an appointed guardian ad litem or other appointed counselor at any time.

2  Effective Date.  This act shall take effect January 1, 2023.

Links

HB1515 at GenCourtMobile

Action Dates

Date Body Type
Jan. 18, 2022 House Hearing

Bill Text Revisions

HB1515 Revision: 34180 Date: Dec. 9, 2021, 12:49 p.m.

Docket


Jan. 9, 2022: Public Hearing: 01/18/2022 04:00 pm LOB 206-208


Dec. 9, 2021: Introduced 01/05/2022 and referred to Children and Family Law