When is a GAL Required? (Part II)

August 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

Last November, we discussed the COA’s decision in Carter v. Carter, a child-custody modification case in which the chancellor had removed custody from Jennifer Carter because of her squalid living conditions and inattention to the child’s dental care.

Jennifer appealed, claiming that it was error for the chancellor to adjudicate the case without appointing a GAL. The COA affirmed, pointing out that neither Jennifer nor her ex had asked the court to appoint one.

Jennifer filed for cert, which the MSSC granted. Oral argument has been completed, and we are awaiting the court’s decision. Jane Tucker posted on the case with links to the cert petition, supplemental briefs, and video of the oral argument. You can access her post at this link.

Here’s hoping that the high court takes this opportunity to clarify just what allegations or proof are necessary to trigger appointment of a GAl, and how grievous the situation needs to be. As for allegations, Jennifer argued in her cert petition that the COA’s decision imposes too harsh a standard on litigants; in other words, she is arguing that once the proof is in the record the chancellor has a duty to appoint. The question remains, though, how serious the child’s circumstances must be to require a GAL. In his opinion for the COA, Judge Fair wrote that the supreme court has typically drawn the line at fact situations that would trigger youth court jurisdiction, and he found that the facts in Carter did not rise to that level. maybe the court can add some clarity.

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