§ 107.3. Appointment of guardian ad litem--Referral to mediation or counseling--Definitions--False accusations of child abuse or neglect
A. 1. In any proceeding when the custody or visitation of a minor child or children is contested by any party, the court may appoint an attorney at law as guardian ad litem upon motion of the court or upon application of any party to appear for and represent the minor children.
2. The guardian ad litem may be appointed to objectively advocate on behalf of the child and act as an officer of the court to investigate all matters concerning the best interests of the child. In addition to other duties required by the court and as specified by the court, a guardian ad litem shall have the following responsibilities:
a. review documents, reports, records and other information relevant to the case, meet with and observe the child in appropriate settings, and interview parents, caregivers and health care providers and any other person with knowledge relevant to the case including, but not limited to, teachers, counselors and child care providers,
b. advocate for the best interests of the child by participating in the case, attending any hearings in the matter and advocating for appropriate services for the child when necessary,
c. monitor the best interests of the child throughout any judicial proceeding,
d. present written factual reports to the parties and court prior to trial or at any other time as specified by the court on the best interests of the child, which determination is solely the decision of the court, and
e. the guardian ad litem shall, as much as possible, maintain confidentiality of information related to the case and is not subject to discovery pursuant to the Oklahoma Discovery Code.1
3. Expenses, costs, and attorney fees for the guardian ad litem may be allocated among the parties as determined by the court.
4. The Oklahoma Bar Association shall develop a standard operating manual for guardians ad litem which shall include, but not be limited to, legal obligations and responsibilities, information concerning child abuse, child development, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and parent and child behavioral health and management including best practices. After publication of the manual, all guardians ad litem shall certify to the court in which he or she is appointed as a guardian ad litem that the manual has been read and all provisions contained therein are understood. The guardian ad litem shall also certify that he or she agrees to follow the best practices described within the standard operating manual. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall provide public access to the standard operating manual by providing a link to the manual on the Oklahoma State Courts Network (OSCN) website.
B. When property, separate maintenance, or custody is at issue, the court:
1. May refer the issue or issues to mediation if feasible unless a party asserts or it appears to the court that domestic violence or child abuse has occurred, in which event the court shall halt or suspend professional mediation unless the court specifically finds that:
a. the following three conditions are satisfied:
(1) the professional mediator has substantial training concerning the effects of domestic violence or child abuse on victims,
(2) a party who is or alleges to be the victim of domestic violence is capable of negotiating with the other party in mediation, either alone or with assistance, without suffering an imbalance of power as a result of the alleged domestic violence, and
(3) the mediation process contains appropriate provisions and conditions to protect against an imbalance of power between parties resulting from the alleged domestic violence or child abuse, or
b. in the case of domestic violence involving parents, the parent who is or alleges to be the victim requests mediation and the mediator is informed of the alleged domestic violence; and
2. When custody is at issue, the court may order, in addition to or in lieu of the provisions of paragraph 1 of this subsection, that each of the parties undergo individual counseling in a manner that the court deems appropriate, if the court finds that the parties can afford the counseling.
C. As used in this section:
1. “Child abuse or neglect” shall have the same meaning as “abuse” or “neglect” as defined by Section 1-1-105 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes or shall mean the child has been adjudicated deprived as a result of the actions or omission of either parent pursuant to the Oklahoma Children’s Code;2 and
2. “Domestic violence” shall have the same meaning as such term is defined by the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act.3
D. During any proceeding concerning child custody, should it be determined by the court that a party has intentionally made a false or frivolous accusation to the court of child abuse or neglect against the other party, the court shall proceed with any or all of the following:
1. Find the accusing party in contempt for perjury and refer for prosecution;
2. Consider the false allegations in determining custody; and
3. Award the obligation to pay all court costs and legal expenses encumbered by both parties arising from the allegations to the accusing party.