Friday, October 14, 2016

Guardian Ad Litem and Harmless Error

Yesterday, the Mississippi Supreme Court decided Smith v. Smith located here.  This was a nasty custody case involving sexual abuse.  One of the issues was whether it was error to not say why the guardian ad litem recommendation was not followed.  The Court found that:

"We find the fact the chancellor made an independent custody assessment is not, itself, error. Furthermore, after review, we find no error in the chancellor’s ultimate custody decision, evidentiary rulings, and award of costs to the husband. We do, however, find the chancellor should have explained why he rejected the GAL’s recommendation1 that the minor children be assessed and counseled. But we find this omission was harmless error and does not require reversal."

This is the first case I am aware of that has found the failure to state why the opinion was being rejected was harmless error.  This could signal a new shift in the role of the guardian ad litem.

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