The Independent’s cover story this week touches on the sensitive topic of custody battles and how the state of Montana regulates guardians ad litem, people appointed by the court solely to represent the best interests of children. One group of local parents, who at first came together merely for emotional support, has taken its concerns over Montana’s lax laws on guardians to the legislative level.
Rep. Betsy Hands, D-Missoula, heard from the group earlier this summer. She says she increasingly realized the severity of the situation and is now hoping to draft a bill over the next year to improve Montana’s legal statute outlining the qualifications and responsibilities of a guardian ad litem. The parent group, Montanans Supporting Guardian Guidelines (MSGG), began working with legal professionals and University of Montana students and faculty this fall to gather more information on exactly what the legislation should include.
Active guardians in Missoula say they aren’t necessarily opposed to a change in the law. Simon Fickinger, who says he’s the second most requested guardian ad litem in Montana, supports the initiative as long as it doesn’t go “off into the ridiculous” once the desired change is achieved.
MSGG plans to continue reaching out to individuals affected—positively or negatively—by guardians ad litem. Co-chairs Jodi Netzer-Schoening and Hank Gurzynski, along with founder Emily McKey and secretary Jen Harrington, have established lines of communication for anyone interested in speaking with the group:
PO Box 815
Missoula, Montana 59806
The group has set up a Facebook page for additional contact and information.