Malloy signs compromise family court reform bill

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed a bill setting new standards for guardians ad litem and counsels for minor children, who represent children in divorce and custody cases.

The bill was a compromise measure that grew out of contentious disputes about the state’s family court system. It passed the Senate and House unanimously. Legislators critical of the system agreed to the bill, but plan to pursue additional changes next year.

Under the new law, people involved in a divorce or custody case can request a specific guardian ad litem or counsel for minor children be appointed, or choose one from a court-provided list of 15 options.

Judges must provide specific information when guardians ad litem or counsels for minor children are appointed, such as the duties involved, length of the appointment, fee schedule and a schedule for reviews by the court.

The law also allows people to request that the guardian ad litem or counsel for minor children in their case be removed, and directs the state judicial branch to develop a hearing process to address those requests.

In addition, the judicial branch is required to set up a sliding scale for fees, which judges can order for people based on income, although it’s not required. Courts will be prohibited from requiring that guardian ad litem fees be paid from a child’s college savings funds. And the judicial branch will develop a code of conduct for guardians ad litem and counsels for minor children, as well as a publication on their roles and responsibilities.

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