518.165 Guardians for minor children.
Subdivision 1. Permissive appointment of guardian ad litem. In all proceedings for child custody or for dissolution or legal separation where custody or parenting time with a minor child is in issue, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem from a panel established by the court to represent the interests of the child. The guardian ad litem shall advise the court with respect to custody, support, and parenting time.
Subd. 2. Required appointment of guardian ad litem. In all proceedings for child custody or for marriage dissolution or legal separation in which custody or parenting time with a minor child is an issue, if the court has reason to believe that the minor child is a victim of domestic child abuse or neglect, as those terms are defined in sections 260C.007 and 626.556, respectively, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem shall represent the interests of the child and advise the court with respect to custody, support, and parenting time. If the child is represented by a guardian ad litem in any other pending proceeding, the court may appoint that guardian to represent the child in the custody or parenting time proceeding. No guardian ad litem need be appointed if the alleged domestic child abuse or neglect is before the court on a juvenile dependency and neglect petition. Nothing in this subdivision requires the court to appoint a guardian ad litem in any proceeding for child custody, marriage dissolution, or legal separation in which an allegation of domestic child abuse or neglect has not been made.
Subd. 2a. Responsibilities of guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem shall carry out the following responsibilities:
(1) conduct an independent investigation to determine the facts relevant to the situation of the child and the family, which must include, unless specifically excluded by the court, reviewing relevant documents; meeting with and observing the child in the home setting and considering the child's wishes, as appropriate; and interviewing parents, caregivers, and others with knowledge relevant to the case;
(2) advocate for the child's best interests by participating in appropriate aspects of the case and advocating for appropriate community services when necessary;
(3) maintain the confidentiality of information related to a case, with the exception of sharing information as permitted by law to promote cooperative solutions that are in the best interests of the child;
(4) monitor the child's best interests throughout the judicial proceeding; and
(5) present written reports on the child's best interests that include conclusions and recommendations and the facts upon which they are based.
Subd. 3. Fees. (a) A guardian ad litem appointed under either subdivision 1 or 2 may be appointed either as a volunteer or on a fee basis. If a guardian ad litem is appointed on a fee basis, the court shall enter an order for costs, fees, and disbursements in favor of the child's guardian ad litem. The order may be made against either or both parties, except that any part of the costs, fees, or disbursements which the court finds the parties are incapable of paying shall be borne by the state courts. The costs of court-appointed counsel to the guardian ad litem shall be paid by the county in which the proceeding is being held if a party is incapable of paying for them. Until the recommendations of the task force created in Laws 1999, chapter 216, article 7, section 42, are implemented, the costs of court-appointed counsel to a guardian ad litem in the eighth judicial district shall be paid by the state courts if a party is incapable of paying for them. In no event may the court order that costs, fees, or disbursements be paid by a party receiving public assistance or legal assistance or by a party whose annual income falls below the poverty line as established under United States Code, title 42, section 9902(2).
(b) In each fiscal year, the state treasurer shall deposit guardian ad litem reimbursements in the general fund and credit them to a separate account with the trial courts. The balance of this account is appropriated to the trial courts and does not cancel but is available until expended. Expenditures by the state court administrator's office from this account must be based on the amount of the guardian ad litem reimbursements received by the state from the courts in each judicial district.
* NOTE: Laws 1999, chapter 216, article 7, section 46, *subdivision 3, provides specific effective dates for the state *takeover of miscellaneous court costs under subdivision 3, as *amended by Laws 1999, chapter 216, article 7, section 35.