Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

 

Raised Bill No. 494

February Session, 2014

 

LCO No. 3068

 

*03068_______JUD*

Referred to Committee on JUDICIARY

 

Introduced by:

 

(JUD)

 

AN ACT CONCERNING GUARDIANS AD LITEM AND ATTORNEYS FOR MINOR CHILDREN IN FAMILY RELATIONS MATTERS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2014) (a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, prior to appointing counsel or a guardian ad litem for any minor child in a family relations matter, as defined in section 46b-1 of the general statutes, the court shall provide the parties to the matter with written notification of five persons who the court has determined eligible to serve as counsel or a guardian ad litem for any child in such matter. Not later than two weeks after the date on which the court provides such written notification to the parties, the parties shall provide written notification to the court of the name of the person who the parties have selected to serve as counsel or a guardian ad litem for their matter. In the event that the parties (1) fail to timely provide the court with the name of the person to serve as counsel or a guardian ad litem for their matter, or (2) cannot agree on the name of the person who shall serve as counsel or a guardian ad litem for their matter, the court shall appoint counsel or a guardian ad litem for the minor child by selecting one person from the five names provided to the parties.

(b) The provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall not apply when the parties have requested that councel or a guardian ad litem be appointed and present to the court a written agreement that contains the name of the person who the parties have selected to serve as counsel or a guardian ad litem for the minor child for their matter.

(c) Not later than twenty-one days following the date on which the court enters an initial order appointing counsel or a guardian ad litem for any minor child pursuant to this section, the court shall enter a subsequent order that includes the following information: (1) The specific nature of the work that is to be undertaken by such counsel or guardian ad litem; (2) the date on which the appointment of such counsel or guardian ad litem is to end, provided such end date may be extended for good cause shown pursuant to an order of the court; (3) the deadline for such counsel or guardian ad litem to report back to the court concerning the work undertaken; (4) the fee schedule of such counsel or guardian ad litem which shall minimally set forth (A) the amount of the retainer, (B) the hourly rate to be charged, and (C) the apportionment of the retainer and hourly fees between the parties; and (5) a proposed schedule of periodic court review of the work undertaken by such counsel or guardian ad litem and the fees charged by such counsel or guardian ad litem. Periodic court review shall be undertaken not less than every six months following the date of the appointment of such counsel or guardian ad litem, unless such periodic court review is waived by the parties and any such counsel or guardian ad litem pursuant to a written agreement filed with the court.

Sec. 2. Section 46b-54 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2014):

(a) The court may appoint counsel for any minor child or children of either or both parties at any time after the return day of a complaint under section 46b-45, if the court deems it to be in the best interests of the child or children. The court may appoint counsel on its own motion, or at the request of either of the parties or of the legal guardian of any child or at the request of any child who is of sufficient age and capable of making an intelligent request.

(b) Counsel for the minor child or children may also be appointed on the motion of the court or on the request of any person enumerated in subsection (a) of this section in any case before the court when the court finds that the custody, care, education, visitation or support of a minor child is in actual controversy, provided the court may make any order regarding a matter in controversy prior to the appointment of counsel where it finds immediate action necessary in the best interests of any child.

(c) If the court deems the appointment of counsel for any minor child or children to be in the best interests of the child or children, such appointment shall be made in accordance with the provisions of section 1 of this act.

[(c)] (d) Counsel for the minor child or children shall be heard on all matters pertaining to the interests of any child, including the custody, care, support, education and visitation of the child, so long as the court deems such representation to be in the best interests of the child.

Sec. 3. Section 46b-57 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2014):

In any controversy before the Superior Court as to the custody of minor children, and on any complaint under this chapter or section 46b-1 or 51-348a, if there is any minor child of either or both parties, the court, if it has jurisdiction under the provisions of chapter 815p, may allow any interested third party or parties to intervene upon motion. The court may award full or partial custody, care, education and visitation rights of such child to any such third party upon such conditions and limitations as it deems equitable. Before allowing any such intervention, the court may appoint counsel for the child or children pursuant to the provisions of section 46b-54, as amended by this act, and section 1 of this act. In making any order under this section, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child, giving consideration to the wishes of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capable of forming an intelligent preference.

Sec. 4. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2014) Any party to an action involving the custody, care, support, education and visitation of a child shall have standing to file a motion that seeks removal of counsel for the minor child or a guardian ad litem for the minor child. The Judicial Branch shall establish a procedure to effectuate the hearing of a motion seeking removal of such counsel or guardian ad litem. Prior to hearing such motion, the court may refer the parties to mediation with a family services officer employed by the Judicial Branch. If the allegations set forth in the motion cannot be resolved through mediation, a hearing shall be held on the motion and a decision on the motion shall be made by the court. The presiding judge shall determine the judge who is assigned to hear such motion.

Sec. 5. Section 46b-62 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2014):

(a) In any proceeding seeking relief under the provisions of this chapter and sections 17b-743, 17b-744, 45a-257, 46b-1, 46b-6, 46b-212 to 46b-213w, inclusive, 47-14g, 51-348a and 52-362, the court may order either spouse or, if such proceeding concerns the custody, care, education, visitation or support of a minor child, either parent to pay the reasonable attorney's fees of the other in accordance with their respective financial abilities and the criteria set forth in section 46b-82. If, in any proceeding under this chapter and said sections, the court appoints [an attorney] counsel or a guardian ad litem for a minor child, the court may order the father, mother or an intervening party, individually or in any combination, to pay the reasonable fees of [the attorney] counsel or the guardian ad litem or may order the payment of [the attorney's] counsel's or the guardian ad litem's fees in whole or in part from the estate of the child. If the child is receiving or has received state aid or care, the compensation of [the attorney] counsel or the guardian ad litem for the minor child shall be established and paid by the Public Defender Services Commission.

(b) If, in any proceeding under this chapter and sections 17b-743, 17b-744, 45a-257, 46b-1, 46b-6, 46b-212 to 46b-213w, inclusive, 47-14g, 51-348a and 52-362, the court appoints counsel or a guardian ad litem for a minor child, the court may not order the father, mother or an intervening party, individually or in any combination, to pay the reasonable fees of counsel or the guardian ad litem for a minor child from a college savings account, including any account established pursuant to any qualified tuition program, as defined in Section 529(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, that has been established for the benefit of the minor child.

(c) In any proceeding under this chapter and sections 17b-743, 17b-744, 45a-257, 46b-1, 46b-6, 46b-212 to 46b-213w, inclusive, 47-14g, 51-348a and 52-362, in which the court appoints counsel or a guardian ad litem for a minor child, the court may order that the fees owing to such counsel or guardian ad litem be calculated on a sliding-scale basis after giving due consideration to the income and assets of the parties to the proceeding.

(d) The Judicial Branch shall develop and implement a methodology for calculating, on a sliding-scale basis, the fees owing to counsel or a guardian ad litem for a minor child appointed in any proceeding under this chapter and sections 17b-743, 17b-744, 45a-257, 46b-1, 46b-6, 46b-212 to 46b-213w, inclusive, 47-14g, 51-348a and 52-362.

Sec. 6. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2014) The Judicial Branch shall develop a publication that informs parties to a family relations matter, as defined in section 46b-1 of the general statutes, about the roles and responsibilities of counsel for the minor child and the guardian ad litem when such persons are appointed by the court to serve in a family relations matter. Such publication shall be available to the public in hard copy and be accessible electronically on the Internet web site of the Judicial Branch.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

October 1, 2014

New section

Sec. 2

October 1, 2014

46b-54

Sec. 3

October 1, 2014

46b-57

Sec. 4

October 1, 2014

New section

Sec. 5

October 1, 2014

46b-62

Sec. 6

July 1, 2014

New section

Statement of Purpose:

To: (1) Provide greater clarity to court orders involving the appointment of counsel or a guardian ad litem for a minor child; (2) provide parties to a family relations matter with standing to remove counsel or the guardian ad litem for a minor child appointed in such matter; (3) enact new provisions concerning the payment of fees to counsel and the guardian ad litem for a minor child; and (4) require the Judicial Branch to develop a publication that informs parties to a family relations matter about the roles and responsibilities of counsel for the minor child and the guardian ad litem.

[Proposed deletions are enclosed in brackets. Proposed additions are indicated by underline, except that when the entire text of a bill or resolution or a section of a bill or resolution is new, it is not underlined.]