a. JUDICAL DISTRICT 15 B
ORANGE AND CHATHAM COUNTIES
Local Rules Governing the Appointment of Guardians ad Litem (GALs) and Parenting Coordinators
Purpose and Goals of the Guardian ad Litem and Parenting Coordination Programs
The Guardian ad Litem and Parenting Coordination Programs are designed to provide alternative resources for parties involved in a custody dispute. The goal of both programs is to provide reduction of stress and anxiety experienced by children and parties during custody disputes and to help the parties maintain focus on the best interests of the children. Guardians ad Litem and Parenting Coordinators assist with communication and recommendations as the parties reorganize the family and continue parenting their children. The Guardian ad Litem investigates and makes recommendations for the parties’ access to their children, for helping the parties co-parent effectively, and for a parenting plan. The Parenting Coordinator helps parties resolve disputes and works to protect the children from conflict after a Custody Order has been entered. The Local Rules for the Guardians ad Litem and Parenting Coordinators were developed to clarify processes and understanding of these programs.
A.1 If the Local Rules are inconsistent with any current North Carolina General Statute, Statutory authority shall prevail. The purpose of these rules is to provide for the consistent, fair and just appointment and establishment of a Parenting Coordination and Guardian ad Litem process for the 15B Judicial District. It is recognized that these Rules are not complete in every detail and will not cover every situation that may arise. In the event these Rules fail to address a specific matter, they should be construed in such a manner as to avoid technical or unnecessary delay and to promote the ends of justice.
A.2 The information required by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50A-201 shall be included in a verified pleading (attached AOC form) or attached to all initial pleadings for custody or visitation.
A.3 The parties to all cases involving issues of child custody or visitation, including motions to modify existing orders, shall participate in mediation prior to a hearing on the issues of child custody or visitation unless the Court waives mediation. For good cause, on the written motion of either party or on the Court’s own motion, the Court may waive custody mediation as provided in NCGS § 50-13.1.
A.4 At the time a pleading involving custody or visitation is filed, the filing party shall obtain from the clerk a date for mediation orientation and provide written notice of the date, time, and place of such mediation orientation to the opposing party(ies). If the filing party seeks a motion to waive custody mediation, he or she shall provide notice of that pleading to the opposing party as required by statute.
A.5 All parties in domestic cases shall attend a group orientation session. Unless mediation is waived, the parties shall participate in at least one mediation session. The custody mediation program shall operate in accordance with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.1 and the mandatory Child Custody and Visitation Mediation local rules of Judicial District 15B, which are attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.
A.6 The Custody Mediation Office shall notify the Civil District Court clerk of the outcome of all mediation proceedings.
a. Cases that are resolved through mediation shall have parenting agreements drafted by the mediator and signed by the parties. A copy of the Draft Parenting Agreement shall be provided to each party and a copy shall be sent to each attorney of record. Upon review and acceptance of the agreement by the Court, an Order will be executed adopting the parenting agreement as an enforceable Order of the Court.
b. Private custody mediation orders shall be prepared by counsel of record or the parties and presented to the Court signed by the parties.
A.7 Upon waiver or failure to reach an agreement in mediation, parties or their attorneys of record will file a request for a status conference, or a notice to decline a status conference, to be noticed and set for the next civil Calendar Call following the inability to reach a mediated agreement or waiver of mediation. The Court may schedule a status conference upon its own motion.
A.8 At the status conference, the parties shall be present and the Judge may:
a. review the issues in the case and determine whether any issues can be resolved before any hearing;
b. identify other pending cases involving the family;
c. discuss the need for custody evaluation(s), child abuse evaluation(s), substance abuse evaluation(s), mental health evaluation(s), appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) or Parenting Coordinator, and/or parenting education, as appropriate;
d. schedule hearings on any unresolved motions or regarding temporary custody;
e. provide information regarding intervention services;
f. establish discovery deadlines and set a trial date; and
g. address any issues regarding any minor child’s presence and/or testimony in court.
A.9 Parties may AT ANY TIME file motions for custody evaluation(s), child abuse evaluation(s), substance abuse evaluation(s), mental health evaluation(s), and/or appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) or Parenting Coordinator, or regarding discovery.
A.10 For further information and requirements, refer to Judicial District 15B local rules regarding Mandatory Child Custody/Visitation Mediation.
A.11 Information regarding the Center for Cooperative Parenting is located at www.centerforcooperativeparenting.org.