Iowa enacts law separating GAL and attorney roles for children in custody cases

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04/05/2017, Legislation, Custody Disputes - Children

In 2017, the Iowa legislature enacted HB 133, which changes the law in Iowa as to representatives of children during dissolution of marriage or domestic relations proceedings. 

Under the law, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) to represent the child’s best interests and such GAL must be a practicing attorney. Iowa Code § 598.12.  Additionally, a new section provides that the court may appoint a separate attorney for the child to represent the child’s legal interests. Iowa Code § 598.12A.  Both § 598.12 and § 598.12A specify that the same person cannot fulfill both of these roles.

In In re Erpelding, the Supreme Court of Iowa explained that “the scope of the appointment [under the statute] is most likely directed to custody issues. See Iowa Code § 598.12(1), (2)(a) (enumerating duties and powers of the GAL or child's attorney); cf. § 598.12(4) (allowing the court to require an appropriate agency investigate matters pertinent the children's best interests ‘in a dispute concerning custody of the child or children’).” 917 N.W.2d 235, 245 (Iowa 2018).

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