Half truths, our children and injustice. Why is this acceptable in the family court system?

By Catherine Cooper | Sep 20, 2012

Guardians ad litem, Judges and quite a few Family Lawyers consider the Maine Guardians ad litem issues that have been widely reported not to be a big problem. Or that is has been hyped by people who have special interest and as a result they are stirring things up. Quite often it is pointed out that these people have a gripe about how unfair the final custody agreement went. Or finally that there is not much of a problem because there have only been 2 reprimands in the last 2 years. All of these themes are repeated over and over despite the facts which contradict these claims and despite the fact that Maine's Judicial Branch has shamefully little actual data. It's about "please, don't confuse me with the facts"!

We are presenting a short list of some of the GAL issues consumers have had to deal with. You be the Judge and tell us if you feel Maine's courts were doing their job by allowing these things to happen with no GAL oversight- What follows are from cases both ongoing and finalized.

1.The Guardian ad litem recommended a child's best interest is served by a parent that has a history of mental illness - the other parent does not.

2.The Guardian ad litem indicated that there is nothing wrong for a four year old to go to a bar late at night and witness violence and bad words. This came from a senior member of the Guardian ad Litem Institute.

3.The Guardian ad litem indicated that if a parent went to jail the child would grow up to become the next unabomber. This came from a senior member of the Guardian ad Litem Institute.

4.The Guardian ad litem took no action when it was brought to her attention that a young child suffered cigarette burns. The Guardian ad litem did not report this to DHHS as stated under the Rules for Guardians ad litem. Nor did this Guardian ad litem show she was protecting the interest of this child.

5.The Guardian ad litem made a diagnosis of a child's current and or future condition. Guardians ad litem do not have the authority to make a diagnosis nor do they have the training to do so.

6.A Guardian ad litem recommended that a 3 year old child was better off living with the father over the girls grandparents. The father has a history of drug use, jail time and has sexually molested his child. The grandparents are respectable people. The Guardian ad litem did not protect the interest of this child.

7.In numerous cases the Guardian ad litem has shown disrespect to a trained professional who has a background in child psychology by disregarding professional opinions, or seeking an opinion from another professional that would better fit the GAL's personal biases. This is contrary to the rules which state that a Guardian ad litem must work effectively with other professionals in the assessment of the child or parties to a case.

8.The Guardian ad litem failed to meet the child or the child and parent in a timely manner and failed to form a relationship with the child whose "best interest" they were claiming to serve. This is contrary to the rules for Guardians ad litem.

9.With numerous Guardians ad litem a parent has been made to jump through expensive unnecessary clinical hoops - anger management assessments and psychological evaluations without any clearly specified reasons for the referral from a trained professional, to name a few. These referrals were made by the GAL alone and were done with no reason, no goals and no time lines for duration.

10.In being a reporter of the court Guardians ad litem are supposed to establish a relationship with the child(ren) in the case. Often the Guardians ad litem with feel that they know the children enough to make life altering decisions after only 20 or 30 minutes. In one case the Guardian ad litem made life altering recommendations without ever having met the child in question.

11.With numerous complaints against Guardians ad litem there are claims of bias and the GAL failed to offer objective reasons for recommendations or actions. Guardians ad litem are supposed to be neutral reporters for the court.

12.With numerous recommendations that Guardians ad litem have filed in courts - one of the common complaints is the accuracy of information contained in their report. For instance we have seen the following:

-Bills that are not transparent and impossible to understand.
-Names that are not recorded correctly.
-Time lines that are not accurate.
-Dates that are not accurate.

13.Facts that are wrong, which the GAL refused to correct despite objective evidence. As a reporter of facts these Guardians ad litem failed to fulfill their most basic job requirement.

14.In numerous cases the Guardian ad litem had ex parte communication with the Judge. While this is allowed by the courts it is also stated that in fairness the Guardian ad litem must let the parties know of this communication - unless it is not 'in the best interest of the child'.

15.A Guardian ad litem knowing that a parent was incapacitated by prescription medications for several days out of a month felt that the young child was better off with this parent. The other parent had no history of drug use, mental illness nor violence.

16.In several cases the Guardian ad litem contradicted his/ her self on visitation recommendations. Changing what had been agreed upon. This often at the last minute and with no notice to the affected party.

17.The Guardian ad litem coached a parent on a psychological evaluation. This after he had already taken one and the results were not satisfactory. This action came from a senior member of the Guardian ad Litem Institute.

18.A Guardian ad litem producing a bill that represented 26% or the combined income of the parties involved in the divorce.

19.Limiting the time allowed with one parent - thus harming and in some cases destroying the bonds between parent and child. This being done contrary to M.R. Civ. P.Section 1653 (1) - "to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parent after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that is the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing to effect the policy.”

Maine has the distinction of being at the bottom in terms of our children. Is this really the way life should be for our children? Is this something that we should be proud of? Yet there are forces that are resistant to the thought of change. These are the same people who are and have been telling us there is no problem. Please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com and tell us your story.

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