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Guardian ad Litem Success Story 5

Kids’ Voice served as GAL for five children who lost their parents in tragic car accident.

Helen and Scott Marshall, the parents of five children, ages 5 to 16, died in a tragic, weather-related car accident. Joseph and Pamela, the children’s paternal aunt and uncle, filed an emergency petition and were appointed temporary guardians of all five children. James and Cindy, the children’s maternal aunt and uncle, were upset when they learned of the guardianship order and filed immediately to set the order aside. The court appointed Kids’ Voice of Indiana, to serve as the children’s Guardian ad litem (GAL) and to represent the best interests of the children. Clare, the Kids’ Voice attorney, contacted an experienced volunteer GAL attorney, who agreed to serve as the children’s GAL. During the second day of a hearing on James’s and Cindy’s motion to set aside Joseph’s and Pamela’s guardianship, the GAL was able to facilitate a temporary agreement between the families for joint guardianship of the children. According to this agreement, the children could remain in their current schools and extra-curricular activities, while dividing their time between the two aunts and uncles. The GAL facilitated grief and trauma counseling for the children. The GAL also encouraged the Marshall children’s relatives to seek counseling.

For nearly six months the GAL spoke with the children, their relatives and the counselors, and wrote three progress reports that Clare filed with the court. The GAL and Clare encouraged settlement between the parties and participated in a day-long mediation, working to avoid a lengthy court hearing that would add an even greater stress to the children and their relatives. Within 72 hours of the mediation session, the GAL filed a supplemental report with the court. Shortly thereafter, Joseph and Pamela and James and Cindy were able to resolve their differences. Guardianships for each of the Marshall children were established consistent with the GAL’s recommendations. Joseph and Pamela, who were the parents of a baby and a toddler, were appointed guardians of the three youngest children. James and Cindy, who had no children of their own, were appointed guardians of the two oldest children. The five Marshall children alternated spending weekends and holidays together at the homes of Joseph and Pamela and James and Paula. This agreement allowed the children to settle into stable, permanent homes and routines so they could go about the business of growing up, knowing they had the support of loving relatives who would cooperate with each other in the children’s best interests