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V. Duties of Guardian ad Litem

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   A. Consultation With Juvenile

   1. The phrase “consultation with the juvenile,” as used in the Nebraska Juvenile Code, generally means meeting in person with the juvenile, unless prohibited or made impracticable by exceptional circumstances, as set forth in guideline V.A.4 below.

   2. The guardian ad litem should consult with the juvenile when reasonably possible and at those times and intervals as required by the Nebraska Juvenile Code.[1]

   3. In addition to the statutorily required intervals for consulting with the juvenile, when possible, the guardian ad litem should consult with the juvenile when:

   a. The juvenile requests that the guardian ad litem meet with him or her;

   b. The guardian ad litem has received notification of any emergency, or other significant event or change in circumstances affecting the juvenile, including a change in the juvenile’s placement; and

   c. Prior to any hearing at which substantive issues affecting the juvenile’s legal or best interests are anticipated to be addressed by the court.

   d. The guardian ad litem should make every effort to see the juvenile in his or her placement at least once, with respect to each such placement.

    4. Where an unreasonable geographical distance is involved between the location of the juvenile and the guardian ad litem, the guardian ad litem should explore the possibility of obtaining from the court an advance determination that the court will arrange for the payment or reimbursement of the guardian ad litem’s reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the travel to meet with the juvenile.

   5. “Exceptional circumstances” generally include, but are not limited to, those situations where an unreasonable geographical distance is involved between the location of the guardian ad litem and the juvenile. Where such exceptional circumstances exist, the guardian ad litem should attempt consultation with the juvenile by other reasonable means, including but not limited to telephonic means, assuming that the juvenile is of sufficient age and capacity to participate in such means of communication and there are no other barriers preventing such communication. Where consultation by telephonic means is also not feasible, the guardian ad litem should seek direction from the court as to any other acceptable method by which to accomplish such consultation with the juvenile.

   B. Inquiry and Consultation With Others

   1. The guardian ad litem is required to make inquiry of the juvenile’s caseworker, foster parent, or legal custodian and any other person directly involved with the juvenile who may have knowledge about the case or the development of the juvenile. The guardian ad litem should also make inquiry of any other persons who have knowledge or information relevant to the juvenile’s best interests.[2] The guardian ad litem may obtain such information through the means of direct inquiry, interview, or the discovery process.

   2. The guardian ad litem has a duty to read and comprehend the court reports prepared by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the Nebraska Foster Care Review Board, the CASA volunteer, and from all other persons or providers assigned to the case who prepare and present such reports to the court.[3]

   C. Report and Recommendations to Court

   1. The guardian ad litem has a duty to make written recommendations to the court in the form of a report regarding the temporary and permanent placement of the protected juvenile.[4] Because the guardian ad litem is also required by statute to consider any other information “as is warranted by the nature and the circumstances of the particular case,”[5] the guardian ad litem’s report should include written recommendations to the court regarding any other matter that affects or would affect the legal and best interests of the protected juvenile.

   2. The guardian ad litem is required to submit a written report to the court at every dispositional hearing and review hearing.[6] The information contained in the report of the guardian ad litem should include, but is not limited to, the following information:

   a. Dates of, and description of, the type of contact and communication with the juvenile;

   b. Listing of documents reviewed;

   c. The guardian ad litem’s concerns regarding any specific matters or problems which, in the opinion of the guardian ad litem, need special, further, or other attention in order to protect or facilitate the juvenile’s legal and best interests; and

   d. The guardian ad litem’s assessment of and recommendations regarding the juvenile’s placement in light of his or her needs and legal and best interests.

   3. To assist the guardian ad litem in preparing the written report, the guardian ad litem may use the “Report of Guardian Ad Litem” form found at Appendix 1.

   D. Participation in Court Proceedings

   1. The guardian ad litem shall attend all hearings unless expressly excused by the court.

   2. The guardian ad litem may testify only to the extent allowed by the Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct.

   3. Where the guardian ad litem is unable or unavailable to attend a hearing due to reasons such as personal illness, emergency, involvement in another court hearing, or absence from the jurisdiction, such guardian ad litem may make proper arrangements for another attorney to attend the hearing as long as no other party objects and as long as the hearing is not anticipated to be a contested evidentiary hearing. In such a situation, the guardian ad litem does not need to be excused from attendance at the hearing.

   4. The guardian ad litem should advocate for the juvenile to be present at all court hearings as appropriate and take steps where necessary to ensure such attendance on the part of the juvenile.

   E. Duty to Provide Quality Representation

   1. Any attorney appointed by the court to serve as a guardian ad litem for a juvenile, or to provide guardian ad litem services for juveniles, is expected to provide quality representation and advocacy for the juveniles whom he or she is appointed to represent, throughout the entirety of the case.

   2. To that end, a guardian ad litem should not accept workloads or caseloads that by reason of their excessive size or demands, including but not limited to factors such as the number of children represented at any given time, interfere with or lead to the breach of the professional obligations or standards required to be met by a guardian ad litem by statute or by court rules.

   3. Attorneys should not accept caseloads or appointments to serve as a guardian ad litem or to provide guardian ad litem services that are likely to, in the best professional judgment of the appointed attorney, lead to the provision of representation or service that is ineffective to protect and further the interests of the juvenile, or likely to lead to the breach of professional obligations of the guardian ad litem.

 

Rule V(C)(3) amended November 21, 2012.

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[1]       Currently, the Nebraska Juvenile Code requires a guardian ad litem to consult with the juvenile within the 2 weeks after his or her appointment and once every 6 months thereafter. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-272.01(2)(d) (2004).

[2]       Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-272.01(2)(d) (2004).

[3]       In re Interest of Antone C., 12 Neb. App. 152, 699 N.W.2d 69 (2003).

[4]       Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-272.01(2)(f) (2004).

[5]       Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-272.01(2)(g) (2004).

[6]       Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-272.01(2) (f) (2004).

 

 

This page was last modified on Wednesday, November 28, 2012