SB 477
Modifies provisions relating to guardians ad litem
LR Number:
Last Action:
3/23/2023 - Second Read and Referred S Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
Journal Page:
Effective Date:
August 28, 2023

Current Bill Summary

SB 477 - This act modifies provisions relating to the appointment and duties of a guardian ad litem (GAL). Currently, the court appoints a GAL in any proceeding in which child abuse or neglect has been alleged. Under this act, such allegations shall be made by a custodial parent or guardian under oath and with specificity. An appointment under this provision shall be a limited purpose appointment only in order to investigate and substantiate the allegation. The GAL shall complete the investigation as soon as practicable and file a written report with the court that shall be available to all parties. If the GAL determines that the allegation is not substantiated, the GAL shall be discharged by the court and fees shall be paid by the party making the allegation.

Under this act, GAL appointments may be for a limited purpose when made on the court's own motion, a motion of a party, by agreement of the parties, or in cases of child abuse or neglect. GALs appointed for a limited purpose shall not have authority to address matters outside that purpose. Once the purpose is achieved, the GAL shall make a written report including his or her recommendations on the case's disposition and such report shall be made available to all parties. The GAL shall be dismissed following the conclusion of the report.

Within 21 days of appointment, a GAL shall meet in-person with the custodial parents or guardians and the child and provide a copy of the Missouri Supreme Court standards governing GALs. The meeting with the child shall occur in a private setting at a time and place that allows the GAL to observe the child and gather the unobstructed input of the child, free of coercion and manipulation, as to the child's custodial arrangement, safety, and needs. Such initial meeting shall take place away from the courthouse. The GAL shall continue to maintain regular contact with the child for the duration of and pursuant to the confines of the appointment. This duty shall not be designated to any volunteer advocate or other person. GALs shall respond to all requests for communications from parties within 7 calendar days.

All parties in a proceeding in which a GAL has been appointed shall have the right to request, without cause, one disqualification of a GAL within 30 days of appointment. Outside of the 30-day period or after one disqualification has been made by a party, a party may make a written in camera motion to the court alleging the reason for disqualifying a GAL, as specified in the act.

Appointed GALs shall be awarded a reasonable fee for services. Every 30 days during the pendency of the case and prior to each hearing, the GAL shall provide the parties with a statement reflecting services rendered, as described in the act.

On or before January 1, 2024, the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel within the Missouri Supreme Court shall establish, maintain, and make available to the public a written complaint procedure for parties dissatisfied with the services of a GAL, including failures by the GAL to act in accordance with the rules of professional conduct or the standards for GALs.

Finally, this act specifies the standards that a GAL shall adhere to in family and juvenile courts, including standards relating to GAL case loads; the best interests of the child; diligent advocacy for the child; reasonable access to the child and the child's reasonable access to the GAL; the GAL's access to relevant records relating to the child; confidentiality of information; case review; GAL-child interactions; GAL participation in plans, staffings, and orders relating to the child; GAL presence in court proceedings and conferences; and GAL recommendations to the court.

Provisions of this act are substantially similar to SB 359 (2023) and similar to SB 88 (2019)



No Amendments Found.