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Montana holds one of the least regulated guardian ad litem systems for divorce proceedings in the United States. The lack of regulations, guidelines and stipulations has negatively impacted the lives of many families across the state. The GAL position was created to protect the interest of children in custody disputes. However, the current system fails to create guidelines to help direct GALs in their duties. This results in a number of problems:.

Reforming Montana's GAL policies and procedures is imperative. Current practices do not serve Montana's children well. In fact they create a structure that is emotionally and financially exploitative for the children and families involved. The courts are burdened with cases that are left unresolved for years or not necessarily decided in the best interest of the child/children. Financial repercussions for families have mirrored the hardships of the depression era. For example, some parents have been tied to the legal system for up to 10 years or have paid legal and GAL fees of over $300,000. To protect the well-being of children, parents, and our state, we believe GAL policy in Montana should require provisions for supervision, grievance procedures, training, qualifications and fee rates.

Michael D'Esterre, Emily Dillow, Megan Eby and others

Masters of social work candidates

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Missoula

 

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