Current as of: 2013
(a) The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for a minor child in any action affecting the family if any of the following conditions exists:
1. The court has reason for special concern as to the welfare of a minor child.
2. Except as provided in par. (am), the legal custody or physical placement of the child is contested.
(am) The court is not required to appoint a guardian ad litem under par. (a) 2. if all of the following apply:
1. Legal custody or physical placement is contested in an action to modify legal custody or physical placement under s. 767.451 or 767.481.
2. The modification sought would not substantially alter the amount of time that a parent may spend with his or her child.
3. The court determines any of the following:
a. That the appointment of a guardian ad litem will not assist the court in the determination regarding legal custody or physical placement because the facts or circumstances of the case make the likely determination clear.
b. That a party seeks the appointment of a guardian ad litem solely for a tactical purpose, or for the sole purpose of delay, and not for a purpose that is in the best interest of the child.
(b) The court may appoint a guardian ad litem for a minor child in any action affecting the family if the child's legal custody or physical placement is stipulated to be with any person or agency other than a parent of the child or, if at the time of the action, the child is in the legal custody of, or physically placed with, any person or agency other than the child's parent by prior order or by stipulation in this or any other action.
(c) The attorney responsible for support enforcement under s. 59.53 (6) (a) may request that the court appoint a guardian ad litem to bring an action or motion on behalf of a minor who is a nonmarital child whose paternity has not been acknowledged under s. 767.805 (1) or a substantially similar law of another state or adjudicated for the purpose of determining the paternity of the child, and the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem, if any of the following applies:
1. Aid is provided under s. 48.57 (3m) or (3n), 48.645, 49.19, or 49.45 on behalf of the child, or benefits are provided to the child's custodial parent under ss. 49.141 to 49.161, but the state and its delegate under s. 49.22 (7) are barred by a statute of limitations from commencing an action under s. 767.80 on behalf of the child.
2. An application for legal services has been filed with the child support program under s. 49.22 on behalf of the child, but the state and its delegate under s. 49.22 (7) are barred by a statute of limitations from commencing an action under s. 767.80 on behalf of the child.
(d) A guardian ad litem appointed under par. (c) shall bring an action or motion for the determination of the child's paternity if the guardian ad litem determines that the determination of the child's paternity is in the child's best interest.
(e) Nothing in this subsection prohibits the court from making a temporary order under s. 767.225 that concerns the child before a guardian ad litem is appointed or before the guardian ad litem has made a recommendation to the court, if the court determines that the temporary order is in the best interest of the child.
(2) Time for appointment. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem under sub. (1) (a) 1. or (b) whenever the court deems it appropriate. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem under sub. (1) (a) 2. at the time specified in s. 767.405 (12) (b), unless upon motion by a party or its own motion the court determines that earlier appointment is necessary.
(3) Qualifications. The guardian ad litem shall be an attorney admitted to practice in this state. No person who is an interested party in a proceeding, appears as counsel in a proceeding on behalf of any party or is a relative or representative of an interested party may be appointed guardian ad litem in that proceeding.
(4) Responsibilities. The guardian ad litem shall be an advocate for the best interests of a minor child as to paternity, legal custody, physical placement, and support. The guardian ad litem shall function independently, in the same manner as an attorney for a party to the action, and shall consider, but shall not be bound by, the wishes of the minor child or the positions of others as to the best interests of the minor child. The guardian ad litem shall consider the factors under s. 767.41 (5) (am), subject to s. 767.41 (5) (bm), and custody studies under s. 767.405 (14). The guardian ad litem shall investigate whether there is evidence that either parent has engaged in interspousal battery, as described in s. 940.19 or 940.20 (1m), or domestic abuse, as defined in s. 813.12 (1) (am), and shall report to the court on the results of the investigation. The guardian ad litem shall review and comment to the court on any mediation agreement and stipulation made under s. 767.405 (12) and on any parenting plan filed under s. 767.41 (1m). Unless the child otherwise requests, the guardian ad litem shall communicate to the court the wishes of the child as to the child's legal custody or physical placement under s. 767.41 (5) (am) 2. The guardian ad litem has none of the rights or duties of a general guardian.
(4m) Status hearing.
(a) Subject to par. (b), at any time after 120 days after a guardian ad litem is appointed under this section, a party may request that the court schedule a status hearing related to the actions taken and work performed by the guardian ad litem in the matter.
(b) A party may, not sooner than 120 days after a status hearing under this subsection is held, request that the court schedule another status hearing on the actions taken and work performed by the guardian ad litem in the matter.
(5) Termination and extension of appointment. The appointment of a guardian ad litem under sub. (1) terminates upon the entry of the court's final order or upon the termination of any appeal in which the guardian ad litem participates. The guardian ad litem may appeal, may participate in an appeal or may do neither. If an appeal is taken by any party and the guardian ad litem chooses not to participate in that appeal, he or she shall file with the appellate court a statement of reasons for not participating. Irrespective of the guardian ad litem's decision not to participate in an appeal, the appellate court may order the guardian ad litem to participate in the appeal. At any time, the guardian ad litem, any party or the person for whom the appointment is made may request in writing that the court extend or terminate the appointment or reappointment. The court may extend that appointment, or reappoint a guardian ad litem appointed under this section, after the final order or after the termination of the appeal, but the court shall specifically state the scope of the responsibilities of the guardian ad litem during the period of that extension or reappointment.
(6) Compensation. The guardian ad litem shall be compensated at a rate that the court determines is reasonable. The court shall order either or both parties to pay all or any part of the compensation of the guardian ad litem. In addition, upon motion by the guardian ad litem, the court shall order either or both parties to pay the fee for an expert witness used by the guardian ad litem, if the guardian ad litem shows that the use of the expert is necessary to assist the guardian ad litem in performing his or her functions or duties under this chapter. If both parties are indigent, the court may direct that the county of venue pay the compensation and fees. If the court orders a county to pay the compensation of the guardian ad litem, the amount ordered may not exceed the compensation paid to private attorneys under s. 977.08 (4m) (b). The court may order a separate judgment for the amount of the reimbursement in favor of the county and against the party or parties responsible for the reimbursement. The court may enforce its orders under this subsection by means of its contempt power.
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