Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, P.C. Attorneys at Law

Pennsylvania seeks review of child custody system

What happens when divorcing parents can't decide on who will care for the children and there is a child custody battle? What happens if one parent accuses the other parent of posing a threat to the children? What happens when the State threatens to strip a parent of his or her parental rights?

In these situations, children are often assigned a guardian ad litem by the court to ensure the children's best interests are met. A guardian ad litem, or a guardian "for the lawsuit," makes his or her decisions by talking with the children at the center of a lawsuit and anyone with insight into how the children's family operates and, more importantly, how the child functions within the family. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, however, has been asked to look at the guardian ad litem system in the Lackawanna County Court.

The Lackawanna County Court move to reform the guardian ad litem system has been described by one judge as a way to standardize the system with the rest of Pennsylvania. The judge has been making some reforms on how to determine children's best interests.

According to the Times-Tribune, there are several reforms that have been enacted by the state. One such reform is that court workers on home inspections after regular business hours may not take checks or cash for payment. Instead, the home inspection payments must be made to the Clerk of Judicial Records, Family Division and the county will compensate the inspectors from a general fund. Similarly, visitation supervisors will be required to deposit their fees with the Clerk.

It seems that with these reforms, Lackawanna County has now standardized many of its rules and procedures in regards to the guardian ad litem system. These reforms will also ensure any child custody or divorce proceedings are more predictable for mothers, fathers, and family law attorneys.

Source: The Scranton Times Tribune, "Lackawanna County judge asked state to review guardian system for children," Joe McDonald, 30 June 2011

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