AMENDMENTS TO THE
RULES OF SUPERINTENDENCE FOR THE COURTS OF OHIO
Amendments to Rule 48 of the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio were adopted by the Court and become effective March 1, 2009. The history of these amendments is as follows:
May 12, 2008 Initial publication for comment
January 20, 2009 Final adoption by conference
March 1, 2009 Effective date of proposed amendments
RULES OF SUPERINTENDENCE FOR THE COURTS OF OHIO
Rule 48. Guardians ad litem
This rule shall apply in all domestic relations and juvenile cases in the courts of common pleas where a court appoints a guardian ad litem to protect and act in the best interest of a child.
For purposes of this rule:
(1) “Guardian ad litem” means an individual appointed to assist a court in its determination of a child’s best interest.
(2) “Child” means:
(a) A person under eighteen years of age, or
(b) A person who is older than eighteen years of age who is deemed a child until the person attains twenty-one years of age under section 2151.011(B)(5) or section 2152.02(C) of the Revised Code.
(c) A child under R.C. 3109.04 or a disabled child under R.C.3119.86 who falls under the jurisdiction of a domestic relations court or of a juvenile court with a paternity docket.
(C) Appointment of guardian ad litem
(1) Each court appointing a guardian ad litem under this rule shall enter an Order of Appointment which shall include:
(a) A statement regarding whether a person is being appointed as a guardian ad litem only or as a guardian ad litem and attorney for the child.
(b) A statement that the appointment shall remain in effect until discharged by order of the court, by the court filing a final order in the case or by court rule.
(c) A statement that the guardian ad litem shall be given notice of all hearings and proceedings and shall be provided a copy of all pleadings, motions, notices and other documents filed in the case.
(2) Whenever feasible, the same guardian ad litem shall be reappointed for a specific child in any subsequent case in any court relating to the best interest of the child.
(3) The court shall make provisions for fees and expenses in the Order.
(D) Responsibilities of a guardian ad litem
In order to provide the court with relevant information and an informed recommendation regarding the child’s best interest, a guardian ad litem shall perform, at a minimum, the responsibilities stated in this division, unless impracticable or inadvisable to do so.
(1) A guardian ad litem shall represent the best interest of the child for whom the guardian is appointed. Representation of best interest may be inconsistent with the wishes of the child whose interest the guardian ad litem represents.
(2) A guardian ad litem shall maintain independence, objectivity and fairness as well as the appearance of fairness in dealings with parties and professionals, both in and out of the courtroom and shall have no ex parte communications with the court regarding the merits of the case.
(3) A guardian ad litem is an officer of the court and shall act with respect and courtesy to the parties at all times.
(4) A guardian ad litem shall appear and participate in any hearing for which the duties of a guardian ad litem or any issues substantially within a guardian ad litem’s duties and scope of appointment are to be addressed.
(5) A non-attorney guardian ad litem must avoid engaging in conduct that constitutes the unauthorized practice of law, be vigilant in performing the guardian ad litem’s duties and request that the court appoint legal counsel, or otherwise employ the services of an attorney, to undertake appropriate legal actions on behalf of the guardian ad litem in the case.
(6) A guardian ad litem who is an attorney may file pleadings, motions and other documents as appropriate under the applicable rules of procedure.
(7) When a court appoints an attorney to serve as both the guardian ad litem and attorney for a child, the attorney shall advocate for the child’s best interest and the child’s wishes in accord with the Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorneys who are to serve as both guardian ad litem and attorney should be aware of Rule 3.7 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and act accordingly.
(8) When a guardian ad litem determines that a conflict exists between the child’s best interest and the child’s wishes, the guardian ad litem shall, at the earliest practical time, request in writing that the court promptly resolve the conflict by entering appropriate orders.
(9) A guardian ad litem shall avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest arising from any relationship or activity including, but not limited to, those of employment or business or from professional or personal contacts with parties or others involved in the case. A guardian ad litem shall avoid self-dealing or associations from which the guardian ad litem might benefit, directly or indirectly, except from compensation for services as a guardian ad litem.
(10) Upon becoming aware of any actual or apparent conflict of interest, a guardian ad litem shall immediately take action to resolve the conflict, shall advise the court and the parties of the action taken and may resign from the matter with leave of court, or seek court direction as necessary. Because a conflict of interest may arise at any time, a guardian ad litem has an ongoing duty to comply with this division.
(11) Unless excepted by statute, by court rule consistent with this rule, or by order of court pursuant to this rule, a guardian ad litem shall meet the qualifications and satisfy all training and continuing education requirements under this rule and under any local court rules governing guardians ad litem. A guardian ad litem shall meet the qualifications for guardians ad litem for each county where the guardian ad litem serves and shall promptly advise each court of any grounds for disqualification or unavailability to serve.
(12) A guardian ad litem shall be responsible for providing the court or its designee with a statement indicating compliance with all initial and continuing educational and training requirements so the court may maintain the files required in division (G) of this rule. The compliance statement shall include information detailing the date, location, contents and credit hours received for any relevant training course.
(13) A guardian ad litem shall make reasonable efforts to become informed about the facts of the case and to contact all parties. In order to provide the court with relevant information and an informed recommendation as to the child’s best interest, a guardian ad litem shall, at a minimum, do the following, unless impracticable or inadvisable because of the age of the child or the specific circumstances of a particular case:
(a) Meet with and interview the child and observe the child with each parent, foster parent, guardian or physical custodian and conduct at least one interview with the child where none of these individuals is present;
(b) Visit the child at his or her residence in accordance with any standards established by the court in which the guardian ad litem is appointed;
(c) Ascertain the wishes of the child;
(d) Meet with and interview the parties, foster parents and other significant individuals who may have relevant knowledge regarding the issues of the case;
(e) Review pleadings and other relevant court documents in the case in which the guardian ad litem is appointed;
(f) Review criminal, civil, educational and administrative records pertaining to the child and, if appropriate, to the child’s family or to other parties in the case;
(g) Interview school personnel, medical and mental health providers, child protective services workers and relevant court personnel and obtain copies of relevant records;
(h) Recommend that the court order psychological evaluations, mental health and/or substance abuse assessments, or other evaluations or tests of the parties as the guardian ad litem deems necessary or helpful to the court; and
(i) Perform any other investigation necessary to make an informed recommendation regarding the best interest of the child.
(14) A guardian ad litem shall immediately identify himself or herself as a guardian ad litem when contacting individuals in the course of a particular case and shall inform these individuals about the guardian ad litem’s role and that documents and information obtained may become part of court proceedings.
(15) As an officer of the court, a guardian ad litem shall make no disclosures about the case or the investigation except in reports to the court or as necessary to perform the duties of a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem shall maintain the confidential nature of personal identifiers, as defined in Rule 44 of the Rules of Superintendence, or addresses where there are allegations of domestic violence or risk to a party’s or child’s safety. A guardian ad litem may recommend that the court restrict access to the report or a portion of the report, after trial, to preserve the privacy, confidentiality, or safety of the parties or the person for whom the guardian ad litem was appointed in accordance with Rule 45 of the Rules of Superintendence. The court may, upon application, and under such conditions as may be necessary to protect the witnesses from potential harm, order disclosure of or access to the information that addresses the need to challenge the truth of the information received from the confidential source.
(16) A guardian ad litem shall perform responsibilities in a prompt and timely manner, and, if necessary, an attorney guardian ad litem may request timely court reviews and judicial intervention in writing with notice to parties or affected agencies.
(17) A guardian ad litem who is to be paid by the court or a party, shall keep accurate records of the time spent, services rendered, and expenses incurred in each case and file an itemized statement and accounting with the court and provide a copy to each party or other entity responsible for payment.
(E) Training requirements
In order to serve as a guardian ad litem, an applicant shall have, at a minimum, the following training:
(1) Successful completion of a pre-service training course to qualify for appointment and thereafter, successful completion of continuing education training in each succeeding calendar year to qualify for continued appointment.
(2) The pre-service training course must be the six hour guardian ad litem pre-service course provided by the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Ohio CASA/GAL Association’s pre-service training program, or with prior approval of the appointing court, be a course at least six hours in length that covers the topic areas in division (E) (3).
(3) To meet the requirements of this rule, the pre-service course shall include training on all the following topics:
(a) Human needs and child development including, but not limited to, stages of child development;
(b) Communication and diversity including, but not limited to, communication skills with children and adults, interviewing skills, methods of critical questioning, use of open- ended questions, understanding the perspective of the child, sensitivity, building trust, multicultural awareness, and confidentiality;
(c) Preventing child abuse and neglect including, but not limited to, assessing risk and safety;
(d) Family and child issues including, but not limited to, family dynamics, substance abuse and its effects, basic psychopathology for adults and children, domestic violence and its effects;
(e) Legal framework including, but not limited to, records checks, accessing, assessing and appropriate protocol, a guardian ad litem’s role in court, local resources and service practice, report content, mediation and other types of dispute resolution.
(4) The continuing education course must be at least three hours in length and be provided by the Supreme Court of Ohio or by the Ohio CASA/GAL Association, or with prior approval of the appointing court, be a training that complies with division (5) of this rule.
(5) To meet the requirements of this rule, the three hour continuing education course shall:
(a) Be specifically designed for continuing education of guardians ad litem and not pre- service education; and
(b) Consist of advanced education related to topics identified in division (E)(3) (a)–(e) of this rule.
(6) If a guardian ad litem fails to complete a three hour continuing education course within any calendar year, that person shall not be eligible to serve as a guardian ad litem until this continuing education requirement is satisfied. If the person’s gap in continuing education is three calendar years or less, the person shall qualify to serve after completing a three hour continuing education course offered under this rule. If the gap in continuing education is more than three calendar years that person must complete a six hour pre-service education course to qualify to serve.
(7) An individual who is currently serving as a guardian ad litem on the effective date of this rule, or who has served during the five years immediately preceding the effective date, shall have one year from the effective date to obtain the required six hour pre-service training in order to avoid removal from the court’s list of approved guardians ad litem.
(8) Attendance at an Ohio Guardian ad Litem Training Program approved by the Supreme Court of Ohio or at an Ohio CASA/Guardian Association pre-service training program at any time prior to the effective date of this rule shall be deemed compliance with the pre-service training requirement.
(F) Reports of guardians ad litem
A guardian ad litem shall prepare a written final report, including recommendations to the court, within the times set forth in this division. The report shall detail the activities performed, hearings attended, persons interviewed, documents reviewed, experts consulted and all other relevant information considered by the guardian ad litem in reaching the guardian ad litem’s recommendations and in accomplishing the duties required by statute, by court rule, and in the court’s Order of Appointment. In addition, the following provisions shall apply to guardian ad litem reports in the juvenile and domestic relations divisions of Courts of Common Pleas:
(1) In juvenile abuse, neglect, and dependency cases and actions to terminate parental
(a) All reports, written or oral, shall be used by the court to ensure that the guardian ad litem has performed those responsibilities required by section 2151.281 of the Revised Code.
(b) Oral and written reports may address the substantive allegations before the court, but shall not be considered as conclusive on the issues.
(c) Unless waived by all parties or unless the due date is extended by the court, the final report shall be filed with the court and made available to the parties for inspection no less than seven days before the dispositional hearing. Written reports maybe accessed in person or by phone by the parties or their legal representatives. A copy shall be provided to the court at the hearing.
(d) A guardian ad litem shall be available to testify at the dispositional hearing and may orally supplement the final report at the conclusion of the hearing.
(e) A guardian ad litem also may file an interim report, written or oral, any time prior to the dispositional hearing and prior to hearings on actions to terminate parental rights. Written reports may be accessed in person or by phone by the parties or their legal representatives.
(f) Any written interim report shall be filed with the court and made available to the parties for inspection no less than seven days before a hearing, unless the due date is extended by the court. Written reports may be accessed in person or by phone by the parties or their legal representatives. A copy of the interim report shall be provided to the court at the hearing.
(2) In domestic relations proceedings involving the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, the final report shall be filed with the court and made available to the parties for inspection no less than seven days before the final hearing unless the due date is extended by the court. Written reports may be accessed in person or by phone by the parties or their legal representatives. A copy of the final report shall be provided to the court at the hearing. The court shall consider the recommendation of the guardian ad litem in determining the best interest of the child only when the report or a portion of the report has been admitted as an exhibit.
(G) Responsibilities of the court
In order to ensure that only qualified individuals perform the duties of guardians ad litem and that the requirements of this rule are met, each court appointing guardians ad litem shall do all of the following:
(1) Maintain a public list of approved guardians ad litem while maintaining individual privacy under Rules 44 through 47 of the Rules of Superintendence.
(2) Establish criteria, which include all requirements of this rule, for appointment and removal of guardians ad litem and procedures to ensure an equitable distribution of the work load among the guardians ad litem on the list.
(3) Appoint or contract with a person to coordinate the application and appointment process, keep the files and records required by this rule, maintain information regarding training opportunities, receive written comments and complaints regarding the performance of guardians ad litem practicing before that court and perform other duties as assigned by the court.
(4) Maintain files for all applicants and for individuals approved for appointment as guardians ad litem with the court. The files shall contain all records and information required by this rule, and by local rules, for the selection and service of guardians ad litem including a certificate or other satisfactory proof of compliance with training requirements.
(5) Require all applicants to submit a resume or information sheet stating the applicant’s training, experience and expertise demonstrating the person’s ability to successfully perform the responsibilities of a guardian ad litem.
(6) Conduct, or cause to be conducted, a criminal and civil background check and investigation of information relevant to the applicant’s fitness to serve as a guardian ad litem.
(7) Conduct, at least annually, a review of its list to determine that all individuals are in compliance with the training and education requirements of this rule and local rules, that they have performed satisfactorily on all assigned cases during the preceding calendar year and are otherwise qualified to serve.
(8) Require all individuals on its list to certify annually they are unaware of any circumstances that would disqualify them from serving and to report the training they have attended to comply with division (E) of this rule.
(9) Each court shall develop a process or local rule and appoint a person for accepting and considering written comments and complaints regarding the performance of guardians ad litem practicing before that court. A copy of comments and complaints submitted to the court shall be provided to the guardian ad litem who is the subject of the complaint or comment. The person appointed may forward any comments and complaints to the administrative judge of the court for consideration and appropriate action. Dispositions by the court shall be made promptly. The court shall maintain a written record in the guardian ad litem’s file regarding the nature and disposition of any comment or complaint and shall notify the person making the comment or complaint and the subject guardian ad litem of the disposition.
Rule 99. Effective date
(JJ) Rule 48 of the Rules of Superintendence adopted by the Court on January 20, 2009 shall take effect on March 1, 2009.