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Parental Responsibilities Proceedings Child Safety

Concerning standards related to court proceedings for allocation of parental responsibilities to keep children safe.
2024 Regular Session
Children & Domestic Matters
Bill Summary

Under current law, a court may appoint a child and family investigator (investigator) to investigate and report to the court relevant factors for determining the best interest of a child or youth in a proceeding involving parental responsibilities allocation. Similarly, under current law, a court may appoint a parental responsibilities evaluator (evaluator) to evaluate and report to the court concerning disputed issues relating to the parental responsibilities allocation. The act:

  • Requires investigators and evaluators to include all information obtained concerning domestic violence and child abuse in a written report;
  • Requires additional training requirements for investigators and evaluators;
  • Requires investigators and evaluators to provide certain written disclosures to each party before performing duties; and
  • Allows the court to implement caps on charges for duties performed by evaluators.

The act defines "coercive control" to include a pattern of threatening, humiliating, or intimidating actions, including assaults or other abuse, that is used to harm, punish, or frighten an individual.

If the court orders unsupervised parenting time for a parent, and there is any information, including an accusation, that the parent has committed domestic violence, child abuse, child emotional abuse, or coercive control, the court is required to make a statement in writing or orally on the proceeding record regarding why unsupervised parenting time was determined to be in the best interests of the child.

The act states that the court may interview the child in the judge's chambers regarding the child's wishes for parental responsibilities allocation upon a motion. The court is required to make findings why it grants or denies the request to interview the child in chambers and give paramount consideration in cases involving an allegation by a child regarding domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, or child sexual abuse.

The act requires that if allegations of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, or child sexual abuse have been made, the court is required to give strong consideration to the child's or youth's preference concerning allocation of parental responsibilities, if the preference is consistent with protecting the child's safety and needs.

The act clarifies that, pursuant to a chief justice directive, the office of the state court administrator is responsible for accepting complaints regarding investigators and evaluators, and is authorized to administer appropriate sanctions. Furthermore, the act requires the judicial department to include information during its annual "SMART Act" hearing and publish information on its website concerning investigator and evaluators.

APPROVED by Governor June 3, 2024

EFFECTIVE August 7, 2024
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)


Became Law


Bill Text

The effective date for bills enacted without a safety clause is August 7, 2024, if the General Assembly adjourns sine die on May 8, 2024, unless otherwise specified. Details