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3694Type of Legislation: General Bill GBIntroducing Body: HouseIntroduced Date: 20010312Primary Sponsor: LimehouseAll Sponsors: Limehouse, Whatley, Scarborough and A. YoungDrafted Document Number: l:\council\bills\nbd\11342ac01.docCompanion Bill Number: 322Residing Body: HouseCurrent Committee: Judiciary Committee 25 HJSubject: Guardian ad Litem Program, court- appointed guardians ad litem provided in child custody disputes; Minors, Courts, FamilyHistory Body Date Action Description Com Leg Involved ______ ________ ______________________________________ _______ ____________ ------ 20010312 Companion Bill No. 322 House 20010312 Introduced, read first time, 25 HJ referred to Committee Versions of This Bill
TO AMEND SUBARTICLE 4, ARTICLE 3, CHAPTER 7, TITLE 20, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA GUARDIAN AD LITEM PROGRAM, SO AS TO INCLUDE IN THIS PROGRAM COURT-APPOINTED GUARDIANS AD LITEM IN CUSTODY DISPUTES IN FAMILY COURT, TO PROVIDE THAT A GUARDIAN AD LITEM IN A CUSTODY DISPUTE MAY CHARGE UP TO FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR SERVICES RENDERED IN A CASE, TO PROVIDE THAT CIVIL AND CRIMINAL IMMUNITY DOES NOT APPLY TO A GUARDIAN AD LITEM WHO CHARGES FOR SERVICES RENDERED, AND TO REQUIRE A GUARDIAN AD LITEM IN A CUSTODY DISPUTE TO BE AT LEAST THIRTY YEARS OF AGE; AND TO AMEND SECTION 20-7-420, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO THE JURISDICTION OF THE FAMILY COURT, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT IN ORDERING A MENTAL OR PSYCHIATRIC EXAMINATION IN CUSTODY DISPUTES, THE COURT MUST MAKE FINDINGS OF FACT THAT THERE IS PROBABLE CAUSE TO ORDER THE EXAMINATION AND THAT IT IS NECESSARY TO MAKE A DETERMINATION IN THE CASE.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. Subarticle 4, Article 3, Chapter 7, Title 20 of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
Section 20-7-121. There is created the South Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program to serve as a statewide system to provide training and supervision to volunteers who serve as court-appointed special advocates for children in abuse and neglect proceedings within the family court, pursuant to Section 20-7-110 , and to court-appointed guardians ad litem in custody disputes in family court. This program must be administered by the Office of the Governor.
Section 20-7-122. The responsibilities and duties of a guardian ad litem are to:
(1) represent the best interests of the child;
(2) advocate for the welfare and rights of a child involved in an abuse or neglect proceeding and in custody disputes;
(3) conduct an independent assessment of the facts, the needs of the child, and the available resources within the family and community to meet those needs;
(4) maintain accurate, written case records;
(5) provide the family court with a written report, consistent with the rules of evidence and the rules of the court, which includes without limitation evaluation and assessment of the issues brought before the court and recommendations for the case plan, the wishes of the child, if appropriate, and subsequent disposition of the case;
(6) monitor compliance with the orders of the family court and to make the motions necessary to enforce the orders of the court or seek judicial review;
(7) protect and promote the best interests of the child until formally relieved of the responsibility by the family court.
Section 20-7-123. No person may be appointed as a guardian ad litem for a child in an abuse or neglect proceeding under this chapter or in a custody dispute who has been convicted of any crime listed in Chapter 3 of Title 16, Offenses Against the Person, in Chapter 15 of Title 16, Offenses Against Morality and Decency, in Article 3 of Chapter 53 of Title 44, Narcotics and Controlled Substances, or for the crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, provided for in Section 16-17-490.
Section 20-7-124. (A) The guardian ad litem is charged in general with the duty of representation of the child's best interests. After appointment by the family court to a case involving an abused or neglected child or a child who is the subject of a custody dispute the guardian ad litem shall receive appropriate notice of all court hearings and proceedings regarding the child. The obligation of the guardian ad litem to the court is a continuing one and continues until formally relieved by the court.
(B) The guardian ad litem is authorized to:
(1) conduct an independent assessment of the facts;
(2) confer with and observe the child involved;
(3) interview persons involved in the case;
(4) participate on any multidisciplinary evaluation team for the case on which the guardian ad litem has been appointed;
(5) make recommendations to the court concerning the child's welfare;
(6) make motions necessary to enforce the orders of the court, seek judicial review, or petition the court for relief on behalf of the child.
(C) The guardian ad litem in an abuse and neglect proceeding is authorized through counsel to introduce, examine, and cross-examine witnesses in any proceeding involving the child and participate in the proceedings to any degree necessary to represent the child adequately.
(D) The guardian ad litem in a custody dispute is authorized through counsel to any party to the action to introduce, examine, and cross-examine witnesses in a proceeding involving the child and through such counsel to participate in the proceedings to any degree necessary to represent the child adequately.
Section 20-7-125. All child abuse and neglect reports made and information collected, as described in Section 20-7-690(A), must be made available to the guardian ad litem by the Department of Social Services. Upon proof of appointment as guardian ad litem and upon the guardian ad litem request, access to information must be made available to the guardian ad litem by the appropriate medical and dental authorities, psychologists, social workers, counselors, schools, and any agency providing services to the child.
Section 20-7-126. (A) All reports and information collected pursuant to this subarticle, in a case where abuse and neglect is in issue, and maintained by the Guardian ad Litem Program are confidential except as provided for in Section 20-7-690(C). A person who disseminates or permits the unauthorized dissemination of the information is guilty of contempt of court and, upon conviction, may be fined or imprisoned, or both, pursuant to Section 20-7-1350.
(B) The name, address, and other identifying characteristics of a person named in a report of abuse or neglect determined to be judicially unfounded must be destroyed one year from the date of the determination. The name, address, and other identifying characteristics of any person named in a report of abuse or neglect determined to be judicially indicated must be destroyed seven years from the date that the guardian ad litem formally is relieved of responsibility as guardian ad litem by the family court.
(C) The Director of the Guardian ad Litem Program or the director's designee may disclose to the media information contained in child protective services records if disclosure is limited to discussion of the program's activities in handling the case of a child who was the subject of an abuse and neglect report. The program may incorporate into its discussion of the handling of the case any information placed in the public domain by other public officials, a criminal prosecution, the alleged perpetrator or the attorney for the alleged perpetrator, or other public judicial proceedings. For purposes of this subsection, information is considered 'placed in the public domain' when it has been reported in the news media, is contained in public records of a criminal justice agency, is contained in public records of a court of law, or has been the subject of testimony in a public judicial proceeding.
Section 20-7-127. (A) After participating in the training program of the Guardian ad Litem Program, a person who is appointed to serve as guardian ad litem and serves without compensation is not liable for
any civil damages for any personal injury as a result of any an act or omission by the person in the discharge of the responsibilities of a guardian ad litem if the person acts in good faith and is not guilty of gross negligence.
(B) After participating in the training program of the Guardian ad Litem Program, a person who is appointed as a guardian ad litem in a custody dispute may charge up to five hundred dollars for services rendered in a case. Accordingly, the immunity provided for in subsection (A) does not apply to a guardian ad litem who charges for these services.
Section 20-7-128. (A) Parties to a custody dispute in family court may jointly or individually recommend a guardian ad litem to be appointed to the case where there is no evidence or the evidence is inadequate to determine the comparative fitness of the parents and to determine the best interest of the child. Unless the court makes findings of fact to exclude a guardian ad litem agreed upon by the parties, the judge shall appoint that guardian ad litem to the case.
(B) To be appointed as a guardian ad litem in a custody dispute in family court, the person must be at least thirty years of age.
Section 20-7-129. The General Assembly shall provide the funds necessary to carry out the provisions of Sections 20-7-121 through
20-7-127 20-7-128 and 20-7-690(B)(5)."
SECTION 2. Section 20-7-420(26) of the 1976 Code is amended to read:
"(26) To order either before, during, or after a hearing a mental, physical,
and or psychiatric examination as circumstances warrant; however, in ordering a mental or psychiatric examination in a custody dispute, the court must make findings of fact that there is probable cause to order the examination and that the examination is necessary to make a determination in the case."
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