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Phone: 843.670.3996


2002, South Carolina Statehouse Report. Published weekly during the S.C. legislative session. South Carolina Statehouse Report is a media project of The Brack Group, Charleston, S.C.

SCIway -- South Carolina Information Highway



1.19: Guardian ad litem reform in limbo
(Week of May 14, 2002)

MAY 10, 2002 - - House and Senate conferees are at loggerheads over proposals to reform the state's guardian ad litem system.

Guardians are officials appointed by judges in contested child custody proceedings to do legwork for judges so they can have independent information on the case and child's welfare. Many also consider guardians, who can earn up to $150 per hour, to be advocates on behalf of the interests of children caught up in the legal system.

This year, the House and Senate passed differing bills to provide fundamental reform on what some say is a current guardian system that makes the cost of custody proceedings skyrocket. Reform proposals included educational requirements for non-lawyer guardians, limits on fees, disclosure requirements and new rules on guardian recommendations.

Senate negotiators say House conference members are seeking a weaker form of the bill that essentially would institutionalize the current system's "out of control" practices. But House members say the Senate's hard-line, unyielding position may thwart a compromise this year. Among the sticking points:

  • Recommendations. The Senate version seeks to have a guardian provide recommendations in each case after all testimony and only if sought by a judge. House members say if guardians are to be real advocates for children, they ought to be able to make recommendations as part of their reports to the court and shouldn't have to receive permission to do so.

  • Disclosure. The Senate bill requires disclosure of any relationship that guardians may have with the parties or attorneys, while the House adopts a standard that requires disclosure of "adverse" relationships.

  • Fee caps. Senators seek caps on fees that can be reviewed by a judge if work exceeds the cap. House members say a rate of pay should be set and, if there is a problem with high bills, the pay rate can be reviewed. House negotiators say their version would reduce court time, which would reduce overall costs.

  • Education requirements. The House seeks non-lawyer guardians to be certified and view at least three full guardian cases before certification is allowed. In addition, guardians would be required to have at least 12 hours of annual continuing education.

As the session winds down, House and Senate conferees will have one-on-one, behind-the-scenes talks to see if there's room for movement between the two sides. If so, there could be another public conference committee meeting in the next two weeks.

11/3: Use your vote wisely: a lesson
10/27: SC GOP to keep control of House
10/20: Black voters may be secret weapon
10/13: Talk is cheap; action takes courage
10/6: Creating sunshine to dampen negative ads
9/29: SC Set to be world leader in news research
9/22: SC Senate shift could be around corner
9/15: Gov's race about barbs, ads, not people
9/8: Shorfall may cause look at prison alternatives
9/2: Revitalize your patriotism by participating
8/25: S.C.'s fiscal situation could be a lot worse
8/18: State wetlands policy needed
8/11: The bully vs. the whiner
8/4: Noah's Ark approach to tax reform
7/28: Two-party system could be political outcome
7/21: State budget woes loom for 2 more years
7/14: Agencies can do better job on Internet
7/5: Thank a guardsman today for service
6/28: Hodges-Sanford race will be wild ride
6/21: Sanford-Peeler race's impact on GOP
6/14: Ethics reform needed now

More done than you'd think(1.23)
More education $ also means cuts (1.22)
PSC reform to come, but when?(1.21)



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