Saturday, December 29, 2012

Caveat emptor - Let the buyer beware in Divorce Industry and Courts of Maine

We have become fascinated by a variety of supposedly routine, signed formal agreements (or contracts) between Guardians ad litem (GALs) and consumers, which might be called "boilerplate" contracts.  These contracts are in writing, frequently follow a standard, stereotyped formula, and are widely used by GALs when they start to work with clients (parties) on a case.  More often than not, there is no effort made to fully inform those who sign such contracts about their downside.

Are these actions truly “contracts”, entered into willingly, with fully  informed consent between two or more parties, or is a “boilerplate” agreement a defective legal instrument that may endanger those who are forced to use it?  The very same boilerplate contract may be seen by legal authorities in two quite  different ways: (a) as a simple, legal, interpersonal agreement in which “ignorance of the law is no excuse”, and ‘caveat emptor’ applies? , or (b) a defective legal instrument foisted on an uninformed party with potential for significant personal harm (or a ‘tort’) involved?  The exact same contractual understanding can be seen by the legal profession as having two quite different legal points of view; a valid contract or a ‘tort’.

Very recently, there has been a great deal of public (and professional) interest in these "boilerplate" contracts that are cropping up in many industries.  They are especially common in the "divorce industry".  There is considerable debate whether they are valid contracts, because frequently those who sign these documents don't understand them, do not realize the full, potentially harmful consequences and may feel forced to agree without adequate debate, questioning or understanding of what they may be getting into.  This becomes painfully evident when those signing such an agreement realize only after the signing, as the contract plays out,  that they have agreed to actions which may be harmful to them or their interests. The client wakes up to the danger in the "contract" only after they have gotten into it, and is told, "Sorry, it's too late!" "You agreed, here's your signature!"  ‘Caveat emptor’!

The contractual issues that are getting a fresh look in some law schools are:
(a) The marked inequality of knowledge of the parties to the contract.  Those who work in the legal profession usually have extensive training in the nature of contracts; the average consumer frequently has very limited knowledge of the nature or legal basis of contracts.
(b) There is no attempt on the part of those issuing the contract to obtain fully "informed consent" from the signer.  How may this contract work against you?   What are the unfavorable things that could happen?  How may you terminate it?  Are you agreeing to this "contract" with your eyes wide open?
(c) Can a "boilerplate contract" without  "informed consent" be considered a defective (or even harmful) consumer product that exploits the public and that can be harmful to those who "buy" it?  Some legal teachers are examining "boilerplate" as a "tort", or harm; rather than a dispute under contract law.  Does a "boilerplate" contract carry dangers to consumers that are similar to the dangers of being sold prescription drugs loaded with known side effects (and NO warning), or the sale of deliberately tainted food- also without warning?
(d) In divorce custody cases, as well as in other types of boilerplate contracts, such as with banks and other members of the "financial industry", the legal remedy of taking the contractor to court for either harm or violation of contract is disallowed by the boilerplate or other legal protections.  In divorce cases it is disallowed, because both GALs and judges who present and enforce contracts have "Judicial immunity".  In both situations it is a stacked deck against consumers.

For up to date information on Guardian ad litem reform please contact us at or like us on Facebook. We welcome comments.

Additional information on boilerplate contracts we suggest reading the following book review published in the Wall Street Journal: "Boilerplate" by Margaret Jane Radin. Margaret Jane Radin is a law professor at the University of Michigan. The topic is highly relevant to the divorce industry and Guardians ad litem, Parental Coordinators and others subsidiaries of the divorce industry.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Judges in Maine are Practicing Medicine without a License

We are told that Judge Andre Janelle ordered a party into therapy, and on the first visit with the therapist, the client/ patient was asked what was the reason for seeking therapy.

The client reported saying that he/ she "was upset and disappointed with society". The therapist indicated that would not do, as it had to be a technical reason – such as depression or the sessions would not be paid for. The client stated that he/ she was glad to be divorcing, and not depressed, but the therapist continued to press the “depression” issue. The therapist had a struggle in trying to come up with a diagnostic category for this court ordered therapy. Finally the client told the therapist to put down whatever he/ she wanted. The client was never interviewed or counseled by the therapist for this diagnosis. There was no reason for the therapy other than Judge Janelle ordered it to be done. There was no depression experienced by the client/ patient. The “reason” was being fabricated for billing and court purposes, so a state (taxpayer - funded) agency would pay. It would also label the patient for the record as being depressed and this could be used in future court appearances against the patient/ client.
When Judge Andre Janelle forced this parent into “junk therapy” based on a Guardian ad litem “junk science” recommendation did he consider any of the following questions before forcing therapy:

  1. Is the therapy really necessary? 
  2. Is there an accepted diagnosis of a problem for which therapy is indicated?
  3. Is the treatment a valid, recognized form of treatment?
  4. Is it approved of by professional societies?
  5. In the end is it really effective therapy?  
  6. What us the aim of the Judge's prescription and can it be defined?  
  7. Will this therapy work on someone without a diagnosis?
  8. Does this forced therapy have the potential of causing harm?
  9. Is the treatment ethical? Or does it force treatment that humiliates with no definable therapeutic purpose?

Judge Andre Janelle probably also didn't consider some other very real issues like: Human Rights violations – where courts and their officers who are unqualified (both in training or background in diagnosis, counseling and or therapy) are forcing innocent people into unnecessary sessions. These therapies such as recommended by Judge Janelle appear to be methods of control and punishment and not of treating an actual problem. In this case as in many the judge forced the release of therapy records by the party. What ever good that may have come from the “therapy” was dissolved from that point on. The trust necessary for any form of therapy – which is founded on near absolute confidentiality – was broken with that request. Confidences are ended. No privacy = no therapy. Forcing the release of information to be shared with the opposing lawyers and their clients – can be damaging in unforeseen ways to not only the client but also those innocently mentioned in therapy. Will Judge Andre Janelle or the Guardian ad litem be held libel for possible damages? Will the lawyers, therapist or 3rd party payers be held accountable? In the examples provided above – probably not as they either have immunity or deep pockets. It will come down to the person with the most to loose that will risk the cost of liability. This poses some interesting legal questions and issues.

The question that should be asked is why insurance companies and government health agencies – who are paying for this – are accepting this sham of forced therapy being prescribed by the likes of Judge Janelle? Do they realize what they are paying for? These Judicial/ Guardian ad litem prescriptions are frequently 'pro forma', and executed with little thought and no diagnosis but as a means of “Judicial Outsourcing” - about saving time for the judge in court that effecting any helping change in patients/ clients.

All third party payers - government (tax payer funded) or private - should have an interest in this set of issues; especially, if they are made aware of it. The money spent by these organizations is being wasted because of a Judicial recommendation that often has little or no bearing on a court case. Or is abused as a means of controlling a situation. The professional organizations, like the American Psychiatric Association have long had an interest, and have written volumes on the issues of confidentiality, informed consent, human rights - and the plethora of legal and ethical issues associated with these questions.

If you are or have been in a situation where the Guardian ad litem or the courts have ordered court sanctioned therapy please contact us at or like us on Facebook for up to date information on reform within the Judicial system.

For past posts on Judicial Outsourcing: The Role of Judicial Outsourcing in Maine

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Judges in Maine Routinely Violate 5th Amendment Rights of Citizens

“Nor shall be compelled in any criminal case be a witness against himself” These are one of the the lofty, important human rights guaranteed to all US citizens by our world famous Constitution. Yet in state after state these 5th Amendment citizen rights are being violated by family courts, the very institutions that are supposed to protect those rights. This has been going on unnoticed by many for some time and has almost become accepted as a regular way of doing business by the courts, Judges, lawyers, officers of the courts and uninformed consumers.

What Judges are condoning- whether directly or indirectly- is asking one or both people involved in a custody to sign over their rights to privacy in confidential, privileged transactions, without explaining how this confidential information will be used- for or against the party. In the example provided below, the judge has ordered the defendant to provide proof of not only the attendance of counseling, but to allow the counselor to speak with the Plaintiff on the Defendants progress.

Click on image for expanded view

Why is this a violation of the defendants 5th Amendment rights? There may be those who will say that the defendant has a choice. He/ she does not have to agree to follow the judge’s order. And this, in theory, would be true. In this case, however, the defendant was faced with the following:

1. He/ She was threatened with contempt of court and jail if he/ she did not comply
2. He/ She could agree with the release of information to his/ her ex and the courts without knowing how his therapy records might be used by the opposing attorney and the alienated spouse: in his favor, or against him, to argue that he/she was an unfit parent, should not have time with his/her child. He is being asked to risk testifying against himself, if his therapy records are released. Self-incrimination versus contempt of court and jail. Tough choices!

Although both choices are horrible and personally damaging, What would you do? In going to jail there is the potential of losing one’s job, having a jail record and the loss of income during jail time. These are all tangible concerns and fears. We know what the potential consequences are in going to jail.

On the other hand by agreeing to the release of information, the "owner" of the information has no way of knowing in advance how that information is going to be used. It is impossible to give his/her “informed consent”, because it is impossible to know every possible or likely outcome of this action, and how it may affect your case. There is also no way to know that the information gained by the plaintiff and court will not be used as part of an attack by the plaintiff against the defendant. This is seen by many people as a sneaky, indirect way to get the defendant to testify against him/ herself. It is a violation of the defendants 5th Amendment rights, and it is all too frequently used by Judges that preside over family courts in custody disputes. It is also one of the many examples of how the Judicial process in family cases has corrupted itself. This process is in danger of becoming very ingrained in the system and it violates the constitutional 5th Amendment rights - to say nothing of common law principles about forcing consent.

The courts in the state are showing a lack of respect for the privileged, confidential information that is conveyed between the therapist and patient as an absolutely necessary part of therapy. In this case (as well as many others that we are aware of) under the threat of contempt of court, the defendant buckled and was forced into making a “release of information” decision that had ramifications that the Judge, plaintiff and most of all defendant had no way of knowing how it would play out. The Judge was in effect telling the defendant that he/ she would have to potentially testify against him/ her self – thus violating their rights under the constitution. The judge also unwittingly destroyed therapy by destroying the confidentiality necessary to make therapy work!

If you have had issues or if things about your case just don't seem right with your Guardian ad litem – please contact us for support at or like us on Facebook to stay up to date on issues and events. We encourage your thoughts on this subject please feel free to respond.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Maine's Judicial Management Dilemma

In thinking about why the Judicial Branch has such difficulty in creating a management system for its GAL program, a number of conceptual and structural impediments come to mind. The most readily acknowledged issue is no money for supervision or for a bureaucratic structure that would allow for normal bureaucratic management of Guardians ad litem (GAL). The financial excuse is probably true given the dire financial straights of the state, but we would say in addition that even were money available, there are more serious conceptual impediments preventing Judicial Branch’s internal management of Guardians ad litem. There are at least three conceptual issues that would make supervision or management of Guardians ad litem in any Judicial system fraught with legal and ethical problems unique to judicial branches of government.

The issues involve internal conflicts inherent in normal organizational role shifts, within a judicial system, from the role of supervision of vocational functioning of a supervisee to the administration of justice in cases involving complaints about supervision which seek legal solutions. Both GAL management and adjudication of formal, legal complaints about a Guardian’s management get very complex when these inherently conflicting activities have to occur within the same, small, fairly tight system. It would require a tight control over supervisory information and rigid compartmentalization of this information, so that information about supervision and management - and any conflict therein - does not seep into formal adjudication channels and pollute the fairness of any possible, future legal complaint process. Can it be done?

1.) Judicial Independence. In the spirit of Common Law, a judge is supposed to form his/her judgment about a case independently, uninfluenced (unswayed) by other branches of government or by partisan, community (or bureaucratic) politics.

This means standing apart from and being independent of politics and influence from the other branches of government. It should include not only formal political influence of the branches, but also government bureaucratic influences, including those of the judge’s own internal bureaucracy. This means using data presented in court by both parties to form an independent opinion and not to be swayed by outside influences or outside information or previous knowledge of the case. It would be difficult for a judge to resolve independently legal actions of any kind involving a Guardian ad litem; especially, a GAL with whom he/she has worked in court or even one who is known to the judicial system. Judicial independence gets damaged by foreknowledge of the GAL, by working relationships, by the rumors, by system gossip, by the system grapevines and by private awareness of the contentions.
A theoretical problem might start with supervisory discord between a GAL and his/her supervisor about an issue of supervision, leading to an internal management hearing and subsequently pursued in a formal court complaint. It might go the full route in court and continue as a case of higher level appeal. Administrative supervision within any such JB system - if there were conflicts - might at some point be apt to tangle with the branches’ system for administering formal justice, as those with supervisory grievances may seek legal appeal. It poses a huge bureaucratic challenge to keep information from these supervision and justice boundaries clean, separate and non-communicating in a single, small bureaucracy. This is a very special supervisory problem (unique?) for judicial systems, one that is not faced by administrative bureaucracies in other branches of government. Judicial independence, while an active member of a bureaucratic branch of government is challenging to say the least.

Having a non-judge be supervisor of a GAL would necessitate a bureaucracy to supervise the supervisor, a supervisory appellate process for conflicts arising out of supervision, and links within the same system to the judiciary for conflicts that "go legal". Judicial independence in Judicial Branches would necessitate a “Rube Goldberg” organizational structure and be strained to the degree that all judges would have to adopt an antisocial, personal ‘modus operandi’ to avoid contamination of their independence by normal internal organizational grapevines and normal organizational politics. And this would have to be at all times for perhaps an actually limited number of internal legal complaints. Can independence of one’s home bureaucracy be carried out, always, with any kind of credibility? What sort of person would avoid all informal social communications with system wide colleagues to be judicially independent? It is an example of the latent conflicting strains between supervision and legal functions within the same system that inevitably impinge on judicial independence.

2.) Judicial Impartiality. There are special challenges to maintaining judicial impartiality when one sits in formal judgment of a person who works in the same bureaucratic system, who is appointed by colleagues, who works for colleagues and friends in that system, who may be known personally or by reputation or rumor. The potential role conflicts and/or impartiality conflicts would seem enormous when colleagues, friends, coworkers must attempt to render impartial judgment. Can it happen? Can one have oversight of a working colleague (and at the same time maintain impartiality), with the unavoidable risk that the working colleague might at some point go to law with a formal complaint for some sort of problem resolution, which cannot be resolved in supervision? It is another serious conceptual impediment to the Judicial Branch system supervising or having oversight of GALs.

3.) Due Process. Implies that in a conflict, all parties and the judge will share in common, knowledge about the complaint and the case at the same time, and that everyone has equal opportunities to respond to all steps in the process. No one has the special advantage of being able to use secret information unknown to the other players or privately to exert undue influence. Well run courts are scrupulous about keeping all relevant information shared by all participants and to avoid ‘ex parte’ communications so no one has use of special knowledge not available to the others. Information has a power of its own to determine or influence outcomes. The idea of protecting due process poses special challenges to the hypothetical idea of supervision or of oversight within a judicial system, where all supervisory and oversight information would have to be kept rigidly apart from the justice side to avoid contaminating possible future due process in a hypothetical legal complaint from the same players. Can any organization - even a formal espionage organization - implement this degree of control over information that is internal to one part of the system in order to prevent seepage into another part of the same system?

These ideas are just a few conceptual and system reasons, why it is virtually an impossibility for the JB to construct a system of GAL oversight without violating very important traditional principles that are embedded in administering the law. This is not in any way to suggest that these principles are not vitally important and necessary in a court of law and need to be respected. It is simply to try to understand why these same respected principles that work so well in court render supervision of GALs virtually impossible in Judicial systems. It is the reason why many states have surrendered to the impossibility of doing supervision/oversight within their judicial branch and moved these activities to the administrative/executive branch.

Maine should do this for the same reasons.

For more information on the issues of Guardians ad litem we encourage you to read the 2006 OPEGA report. Provided is a link to a summary – OPEGA. In addition there is the report the Power of the Powerless which addresses many of the same issues. If you have had any issues with Guardians ad litem we encourage you to contact us for support at or like us on Facebook for information.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Role of Judicial "Out Sourcing" in Divorce Custody Cases

An out of state friend has suggested the concept of judicial out sourcing as a way of describing the use of Guardians ad litem and associated divorce helpers, coaches and therapists in Maine Family Courts (and elsewhere). The basic idea is that today, judges almost routinely call upon ancillary court workers, like Guardians ad litem, and delegate, or subcontract to them, important aspects of their judicial function in family law divorce/custody cases. The ancillary worker “borrows” judicial authority, power and legal immunity and conducts an investigation into disputed child custody claims. Previously what used to be decided by an open, adversarial trial, in a courtroom, following the precedents of age old common law, now gets mediated, negotiated, manipulated or forced outside of court into unsatisfactory resolution by workers who frequently lack a legal background, lack public accountability and who lack recognizable skills in mediation or negotiation. Common law gets thrown to the wind in these procedural nightmares in which there may be multiple other helping “sub-subcontractors”, all acting as ‘de facto’, mini judges.

We would maintain that judicial out sourcing in divorce custody cases is corrupting decision-making in family court cases involving custody. It is the cause of much confusion and bad feeling for all parties. This confusion is the direct result of the delegation of judicial functions to various, well-intentioned judicial “helpers” who are unregulated, unsupervised, unaccountable, poorly trained and who, as a result, frequently operate in idiosyncratic, capricious, unprofessional ways to the detriment of families and children.

One of the criticisms of Guardians ad litem in the 2006 Maine OPEGA report (Office of Program Evaluation and Governmental Accountability) was the lack of clear role definition for Guardians ad litem. There is no job description for GALs. There are rules and standards for Guardians ad litem, but there is no oversight and no enforcement from any management structure within the Judicial Branch. The result is that GALs essentially are free to do their “own thing”, interpret rules and standards as they see fit, see them as suggestions or loose guidelines, or ignore them completely, with no consequences. The bad feeling that the public experiences from this “lawlessness” is incalculable. Judges frequently feel that they have oversight from courtroom observation alone, or from ‘ex parte’ communications. But these judicial claims of oversight lack the knowledge about what goes on out of court between the GAL and the parties and they become unavoidably biased by confidential 'ex parte' communications between judge and GAL. These out of courtroom conversations between judges and GALs also destroy the common law concept of open decisions openly arrived at - to say nothing of the inherent “due process” violations in secret 'ex parte' communications.

Then there are the quasi-amateur mediation and negotiation functions undertaken by GALs that further corrupt legal proceedings. In these nontraditional functions, GALs often try to operate with a postmodern, conceptual framework of “moral equivalency”. In all cases, each party is equally “bad”. It is a parody of impartiality. Whatever “A” did is balanced in this perverted equation by equally bad things done by “B”. If “A” beat their child to a pulp; it was caused by living with “B”, who was “caustic and controlling” or so emotionally difficult to be with that any “normal” parent would do the same to his/her child out of frustration. Parent A drinks: Parent B drove him/her to drink. Parent A does “bad” things; Parent B pushed his/her buttons. He/she couldn’t help themself! ”Victims” in these situations are rescued by the GAL’s use of “pop” sociology, “pop” psychology. This ‘faux science’ has been called “junk science” by a California group seeking tighter oversight on the all too common use of non-expert GALs as “expert witnesses” in court. Then there is use of force by GALs to gain consent to a biased custody agreement. Raw force is frequently hidden by threats that non agreement will lead to “recommendations” to reduce the non-compliant parent’s visitation with his/her child, to “recommendations” that he/she must do anger therapy (for normal anger?), to needs for expensive co-parenting therapy- all of these are highly disputable, unproved forms of forced “help”. They are supposedly “remedies” but they are without any definition of the problem needing remediation. They add enormous confusion and huge cost to the proceedings for the parties involved. And forced “help” of whatever kind is outside of common law. It is basically punishment without a trial. Yet the illegality of “force” is ignored, and these barbarisms find refuge in the armamentaria of Maine family court judges. We can point to many cases in which this has taken place.

The Judiciary needs to clean house when it comes to ancillary “divorce midwives”, who complicate the delivery of a custody judgment in a contended divorce. GALs, anger therapists, negotiators, mediators, co-parenting counselors and the rapidly growing cast of expensive divorce help end by piling confusion on confusion- and dollar on dollar. Are these “helpers” really necessary? Do they help? They totally pervert the judicial process. And they lack any scientific basis or credibility outside of the courts which use them. We need to ask, why are they better than an adversarial trial in court? Can anyone show us reputable scientific studies that would endorse the effectiveness of these “therapies” which are popular and boosted by many Maine courtrooms? We can safely say that there are none. These are legal “therapies” promoted by judges and their subcontractors with no other basis than that judges like them.

These harmful practices need to end. They cannot be repaired. If you have been involved with a Guardian ad litem where things just don't make sense – please contact us at or like us on Facebook to stay up to date on the issues.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Almost 40 years with no Compliance System for Guardians ad litem

In 2006 OPEGA ( Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability ) produced a report highlighting some of the problems with the Guardian ad litem program in Maine. What OPEGA highlighted back in 2006 for Maine are issues that sadly can be seen in many states across the country.

One of the audit findings by OPEGA was that there is a lack of compliance, performance controls and evaluation systems. The Judicial Branch has not been competent when it comes to oversight or performance monitoring in the 30+ years prior to the report.  Six years later we find the Judicial Branch still without any quality controls in place to monitor and evaluate Guardians ad litem. There is no mechanism to identify GALs that are not complying with requirements or who are not involved in the lives of the child(ren). OPEGA also recommended the establishment of an independent oversight board that would ask for feedback on GAL performance. Being able to give feedback and having a place where this feedback, good or bad, is available for consumers would help in the matter of oversight and management. An Angie’s list of sorts would weed out under performing GALs or limit their business. Those that perform to standards would be rewarded for their ethics and behavior.

It was 30+ years before OPEGA investigated and reported on this issue. Six years later the situation has not changed except that there has been 6 more years of damage to Maine's families and children. How much longer will Maine's children have to wait for change to come? If we wait for the Judicial Branch to bring about change it may be another 40 years. Can we wait that long?

If you want to read a summarized copy of the 2006 OPRGA report click here.

A copy of the report done in 2012 – the Power of the Powerless which covers many of the same issues can be found here.

If you are or know someone who has had issues with a Guardian ad litem please contact us for support at We can also be found on Facebook.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Maine's Malfunctioning Guardian ad litem (GAL) program

In 2006 OPEGA (Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability) did a report on the Guardian ad litem (GAL) system for the state. This came over 30 years after GALs were created as mandated by the Federal Government. From that investigation that was completed six years ago came 11 recommendations to help fix the problems that had been festering for so long. As was pointed out in the last post – none – of these recommendations have been acted upon.

One out of the 11 issues that OPEGA found with the Guardian ad litem program is addressed:

1. OPEGA found back in 2006 that GAL services were not being managed as a program with a focus on the quality and effectiveness of service delivery.

When OPEGA made the recommendations back in 2006 the Judicial Branch agreed to convene a task force to evaluate what OPEGA advised. October 2007 The Judicial Branch was to put forth its recommendations and how it was going to fix the problem. Five years later nothing has happened with the Guardian ad litem program and the issues that confront this very broken system. In 2008 Toby Hollander President of the Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute (the trade organization for Guardians ad litem – also known as MEGALI ) basically reiterates what OPEGA had indicated was wrong in his “Proposal to Create a Guardian ad Litem Commission and Office of the Child's Advocate”.

In this proposal that Mr Hollander echoed the OPEGA report in that the weakness of oversight of Guardians ad litem was a major concern. Mr Hollander is quoted as stating “There is no ongoing supervision of Guardians. There is no effort to evaluate the quality or efficiency of their work.” One would think that in 2012 four years after his proposal that there would be more support from the Guardians ad litem that MEGALI fights for in the recent committee investigations in Guardian ad litem oversight and management. It should come as no surprise though that MEGALI and the Judicial Branch have walked lockstep perusing no change despite recognition that change is needed.

Since May 2012 we are aware of over 40 people, 40 families who have been hurt by these organizations. How many others during the prior six years or the 30 plus years before that have been harmed because the Judicial Branch and more recently MEGALI have chosen to turn away and do nothing to fix a problem – a problem that continues to fester?

If you have had issues with a Guardian ad litem or know someone who has. Please contact us for support at or like us on Facebook

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Proposal for Guardian ad litem reform from the Executive Branch of Maine Government

As citizens of Maine, we challenge the Judiciary and their political base, the divorce industry: Is there a single current report or any data whatsoever that shows where Guardians ad litem have had a positive influence on children and their parents? The Judiciary and the divorce industry repeatedly claim that there is no problem with the present GAL situation and their bland denial of a problem is not sufficient when the well being of our Maine children and families are at stake. If there is no problem as this group would have us believe then why is there such overwhelming evidence that contradicts their claim. Do a search on Guardian ad litem reform or problems and the searcher is faced with a mountain of information and reasons why there are problems.

These problems run the gamut from punitively high costs, to non-existant management and control to cases where the Guardian ad litem is blind to child endangerment. Least we not forget - the Guardian ad litem program is a state sponsored, state created and state perpetuated program which lacks any form of management as other state programs have. The Judiciary is a tax funded state agency. Is this lack of oversight in the "childs best interest"?

Maine produced an incredibly thoughtful report back in 2006 done by OPEGA (Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability). It is a report that highlighted many issues with title 22 (Children's Protective) cases. We feel, from our experience, that the issues brought to light are also directly relevant to all cases involving  GALs and are not just specific to title 22. The selection, training and functions of GALs are identical no matter what their work focus. The Rules and Regulations that are supposed to govern them are identical, and the complaint procedure, whatever it may be, is identical.

The 2006 OPEGA Audit on Guardian ad litem performance was the first and only Guardian ad litem functional evaluation in over thirty years. OPEGA made 11 sensible recommendations on how the Guardian ad litem program could be made more accountable. In brief the program suffered from a lack of any standard recognizable form of program management. In the six years since – none of the recommendations have been implemented by the Judicial branch here in Maine.

This should come as no surprise as the Judicial Branch has no management tools for oversight. In addition, they have to walk carefully to avoid offending their political base in the divorce industry, an array of powerful lawyers, Guardians ad litem, and others who make a rich living from divorce. They have dragged their feet on a problem that they are encouraged by their base to view as coming from just a few people. The Judicial branch and divorce industry have repeatedly pointed out that  there are only on average 13-14 complaints a year and that one or two result in any kind of action. 

These threadbare numbers need to be put into context. Why are they so low? Does the Judicial Branch make it easy for consumers with legitimate issues to complain? Do they use complaints as a management information tool to correct Guardian ad litem practitioners, or to improve the program? We have followed some of these complaints, and the problems with the complaint process are obvious. No criteria for making a complaint, no instructions, no feed back and no opportunity to rebut a Guardian ad litem's denial. These figures have no weight at all. The Judicial Branch runs an undemocratic, unregulated, authoritarian system that is at pains to cater to the divorce industry. We can realistically expect no change in this 'modus operandi'. The Judiciary and divorce industry are unlikely to self-regulate in ways that will correct the problems and serve the public and our children.  

The committee currently working with members of the divorce industry will make change - a word here and a word there. The changes being worked on by the industry and Judicial Branch will do nothing more than reinforce the status quo. Meanwhile the life-style of the divorce industry will continue riding upon the backs of consumers who must mortgage their homes, increase their indebtedness and worry about the future education of their children. Maine Guardian ad litem Alert has been made aware of over 40 reasonable complaints that stem from improper management of Guardians ad litem. This since May of 2012. It is interesting to note that 8 of these complaints  are against just 2 Guardians ad litem. There is a problem here and it is not limited to "just a few unhappy people" as one prominent Senator pointed out back in January 2012.

We encourage you to check out what OPEGA recommended back in 2006. The OPEGA recommendations need to be implemented, the entire Guardian ad litem program needs to be moved to the Administrative Branch (as other states have done) where there can be real program management.

2006 OPEGA – GAL Final Report

2006 OPEGA – Executive Summary

2006 OPEGA – Annual Report pages 19-20 extracted

2012 The Power of the Powerless

If you or someone you know has had issues with a Guardian ad litem we ask that you contact us at

Monday, November 5, 2012

Guardians ad litem have a minimal of training to make life altering decisions

Is 16 hours of CORE training enough to make altering changes?

There are professions that have a profound impact on our lives. These people who can make life or death decisions or determine the outcome of a legal battle have in some cases years of training.

A doctor for instance goes through medical school which is an additional 4 years of education above college. Then depending on the branch of medicine another 2 to 5 years of residency before anyone can practice their profession. A lawyer is similar with 3 – 4 years of education after college. To become a Judge is an additional 7 years beyond law school.

To become an electrician, Plumber or a Lobsterman requires years of apprenticeship and thousands of hours of on the job training. These are just a few jobs where the path to that profession requires in some cases years of experience and training. Each level of training builds on the previous training.

A Guardian ad litem is a person that when introduced into a divorce/ custody battle can and does have a profound impact on a persons life. To become a Guardian ad litem one has to have a background as lawyer or social worker – yet unlike other professions the training a Guardian ad litem receives does not build on the previous education they may have. In fact Guardians ad litem do not use their previous background when working as a Guardian ad litem – or at least that is how it is supposed to work in theory. Guardians ad litem on average across the country have training from a low of 16 hours (Maine) to a high of 50 hours. This falls short of the thousands of hours that a Doctor, Plumber, Electrician or Lawyer have to go through. These professions can and do have a profound impact on a persons life and they are held accountable. Would you want a doctor to operate on you if you knew he had only 16 hours of training? Or how about a plumber without any apprenticeship?  The answer is no. Guardians ad litem though have a minimal of CORE training before they get to make life altering decisions on you and your family. If you push back you run the risk of the Guardian ad litem forcing you to take anger management or parental counseling for example. 16 hours, 50 hours or even 100 hours does not give you the educational background to make these kinds of life impacting decisions. Guardians ad litem are only para professionals with little or no background but lots of influence over your life.

If you have had issues with Guardians ad litem please contact us at

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Judicial Branch says, "No Problem" with Guardians ad litem. We say ...

    It may seem unusual to post a letter of resignation, but this letter has already received wide circulation by the Judicial Branch, so we felt the public should see it too.

Chief Justice Leigh Saufley
Maine Supreme Court

Dear Chief Justice Saufley,

    It is with regret that I am submitting my resignation from the Judicial Branch Committee reviewing the Rules and Regulations for Guardians ad litem.  I had initially hoped that, my experience in hearing from many who have been affected by malfunctioning Guardians ad litem, and also from my contacts with many in Maine government (and elsewhere) that I might be able to add a meaningful perspective to the problems facing  the committee. At this point, after participating quite actively in some very pleasant discussions of two Judicial Branch committees addressing Guardian ad litem reform, I feel that I am such a micro minority that my input in the final analysis is perceived as essentially irrelevant, or even unintentionally insulting to the Guardians ad litem and those who support them.

    The problem that I experienced is that the 20 people in the first committee - largely representatives of the “divorce industry”- and the 12 or so in the second, quite honestly and sincerely do not see a problem with the Guardian ad litem program as it stands. They see no problem with the complaint process either.  It poses something of a problem -solving paradox: 19/20 and 11/12 see no problem yet they are the dominant participants in a process allegedly aiming to make things better. The unasked question is: better for whom - for he public or for the “divorce industry”?  It is difficult to correct a problem, if the majority on a committee genuinely don’t believe there is a problem. The oft quoted, “only two complaints in two years”, seems to be the rationalization for this belief. For many discerning people, these numbers (and the structure behind them) hardly tell a very convincing story, but, as you know, sadly, there are no other numbers. So absent your statistics and other data, absent a belief that there is a Guardian ad litem problem, I am a voice crying in the wilderness, and the sole dissenter in every attempt at consensus.

    The only answer that I know of to this particular conundrum is outside consultation from a reputable consulting organization that will look at the big picture, including rapidly growing consumer dissent. The public needs to be included. Such consultants should recommend a design that fits Maine’s children and families, one that addresses some of the issues noted below.

    Our experience with a growing number of Maine families, has convinced us that there is a malfunctioning GAL program from a human perspective. It tells us that there are lots of as yet uncounted statistics out there. But you have to have modern IT methodologies to gather the numbers, you have to listen to those who are the living statistics and basically, you have to want to know. And its the complete absence of quality assurance, the absence of consumer protection (and the attitudes that go with each of these) that many find so troubling.

    The problems that we would address to a consultant are: the absence of a standard job description for a Guardian ad litem, the need for Rules and Regulations that guide the functions of the job description, training that under girds both the job description and the rules and regulations and that reflects the difference between the differing knowledge, skill and experience of GALs from vastly differing backgrounds, the need for a ‘practicum’, or internship, for GALs, so that they are not using the public as experiential guinea pigs as they gain practical experience. The need for oversight of a program with a vast impact on Maine’s children and families. These issues all speak to the need for adequate up-to-date data for a system of program management. It can be done; other states do it.

    It can’t be accomplished by those who see “no problem”.

    All of these management items need grounding in the experience of actual, real life, service users. You need a board of consumers to participate in every aspect of design to keep it from being out of touch with exclusively top down views. It will be useful in educating the “divorce industry” professionals that there is a problem, when there is a problem. And, frankly, the problem right now is destined to get bigger until it is acknowledged as a problem and those affected by the problem are involved.

    In addition to the problems of defining and building GAL identity briefly noted above, there are serious issues relating to process. Is statutory immunity for GALs in the public interest? What substitute does the public have if they are denied the ability to pursue claims of harm to themselves or their children from a GAL? Isn’t “quasi judicial immunity” one of several provisions that undermine accountability of GALs and that protect incompetent practitioners? Then there is the very troubling issue of ‘ex parte’ communications between GAL and judge, which in their permitted secret form allow for a “Star Chamber process”, a trial apart form the main trial that corrupts any pretense of due process.  ‘Ex parte’ makes the GAL into a court informer, paid by those against whom he/she is informing. It uses information obtained in interviews with parties in ways that indirectly cause them to testify against themselves. It urgently needs recognition as a problem and it needs correction. The Rules and Regulations for GALs governing confidentiality are currently so broad as to be meaningless. There is no profession in America that is as permissively unregulated of privileged and other sensitive client information. GALs have no functional restrictions governing confidentiality the way rules are currently written.

    All of the above are clearly “not a problem” for GALs or others who work in the “divorce industry” but I can assure you they are a huge problem for the public that is forced to pay for them!  Understandably, the above issues are  threatening to those who work in the “divorce industry”. They strike at the core of their profession and their income, but there are devastating numbers on the other side of the equation. Fees that impoverish families that cause bankruptcy, that cause the loss of a home, that impair the future education of children- these are a part of the heartbreak in the GAL experience. There is also the use of the court’s most brutal techniques for GAL bill - collecting that may be legal, but it is no less repulsive for being legal.

    To solve these problems with 19/20 participants or 11/12 who don’t see a problem, is a request for self-regulation with no impetus (or expectation?) for self-change. As a minority of one, I cannot be that much needed impetus for change. I can be much more effective in working for GAL reform outside of these committees, and can do so, very actively, once free of the current committee obligations without feeling compromised by two opposing commitments.

    Many thanks for affording me a window on this process.


    Jerome A Collins, MD

If you have had issues with a Guardian ad litem please contact us at

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maine Voices: Plan for complaints about guardians ad litem protects them, not kids

Portland Press Hearld

Since spring, there has been a growing grassroots movement in Maine, advocating that the judicial branch reform its guardian ad litem (GAL) program. None of this is new. There have been earlier, well done, state government reports that politely, but directly point out problems and call for program change.

Current guardian ad litem problems are not just "noise" from grassroots troublemakers. There is substantial noise from within the government itself. Guardian ad litem problems urgently demand reform.

Full story: Portland Press Hearld

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Guardian ad litem Job description

A job description is like the foundation of a house. If you have a good and well built foundation the house that sits upon it will also be strong with few problems. If you have a poor foundation (or none), your house will, shift and shake, lack stability and have a lot of problems. Job descriptions are used almost universally throughout business, industry, government and elsewhere to put boundaries on a job, to describe roles and responsibilities, to give lines of authority and accountability. They are a key management tool. In normal oversight, managers ask, "Are you following your job description? You need to improve this or that part of your job description."

Maine's Judicial Branch is currently attempting to tackle the issue of Guardian ad litem reform. A  committee has proposed a complex new procedure for complaints about Guardians ad litem; another committee is currently addressing the issue of Rules and Regulations for Guardians ad litem. But ... er, folks, excuse me, there is no job description for Guardians ad litem. We have before us a collection of a new complaint procedure and new Rules and Regulations - both in search of a job description. There is no formal description of a Guardians ad litem job to which the Rules and Regulations can be tailored. No roles and functions, no lines of authority, no lines of accountability that are universally a part of a regular job description. There is also the matter of training of Guardians ad litem. In most settings in business, industry and government, the job description is the template, or basis, for job training and education. Training flows from the job pattern and re-enforces the job's roles and functions.

Great work, everyone. Now we just have to find a job that all this stuff will fit! It's doing things backwards.

No job description explains the current Guardian ad litem training design. It presumes a base of knowledge for which there is no evidence and adds a smidgen (16 hours) of social work and lawyer. Lawyers and Mental health or Social Workers have very different bases of knowledge, skill and experience. As one educator told us; education of Guardians ad litem is one root of the current Guardian ad litem problem. The "tap root" is no job description. Without a job description, it leaves the Guardian ad litem in the position of being all things to all people.

The problem is that, while fixing the Rules and Regulations may make the house look clean and polished, these Rules and Regulations have no job description as a grounded  foundation. The foundation is missing. In most settings Rules and Regulations would normally provide direction about how to play out the content of the job description. They elaborate on where the boundaries are located, and rules imply a problem when boundaries are crossed or ignored. They can be specific items reviewed in supervision and in internal organizational corrective action or in external complaints. But in the JB system, there is no supervision of Guardians ad litem, which leaves Rules and Regulations as a sort of disconnected, pious hope. An amorphous, very ambiguous claim of Guardians ad litem working in "the best interest of the child" – something that every parent is also doing – is not a substitute for an actual job description. There is no formal statement that defines who or what a Guardian ad litem is or does, their lines of accountability, their roles and functions.

A reliance on "works in the best interest of the child" as a job description accords the Guardian ad litem a magic mantle of omnipotence and omniscience that no other job in America holds, a sort of high priest/priestess accountable only to God, and the appointing court. Maine is faced with a huge problem with the Guardian ad litem system that starts with these questions: what are Guardians ad litem, what do they do, how are they trained, who has oversight of them, how is this exercised? A final very important question: are children and families safe as a result of their actions? And (this afterthought) why is everyone paying megabucks for this service?

Simply reviewing and rewriting Rules and Regulations for Guardians ad litem with no job description, does begin to address the core of the problem – just what is a Guardian ad litem?

Please let us know at what you think is wrong with the Guardian ad litem system.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Will this really be good for the Consumer?

Making an official complaint about the Guardian ad litem who has worked with you and your family is a daunting process. It forces you to deal with the Judicial Branch of our state government, which is an unfamiliar organization and an unfamiliar activity for most people.  You have to guess what they will agree is a valid complaint. At the moment, unlike the state of NH, our Judicial Branch gives no instruction about how to. The current complaint process simply says, if you believe that a Guardian ad litem has not acted in the “best interests” of your child, you may make a complaint to the Chief Judge of the District Courts. It has been a most frustrating process for most grassroots consumers. The answer from this process seems to be inevitable: dismissal - without reasons given or without a chance to participate in the investigation or rebut the Guardian ad litem’s defense.

But ... in response to public pressure, the Judicial Branch has just finished drafting  a “new" complaint process concerning Guardians ad litem. In our view, it is NOT an improvement over the old procedure.  Unless... you are planning to go to law school for instructions in how to use this new complaint procedure by yourself. It was designed in 3, 2 hour meetings by a committee of 20 persons, all but one are called,“stake holders”, read: members of the divorce industry; District court judges, family law lawyers, and Guardians ad litem. Given their special interests, they did a terrific job of “bullet proofing” Guardians ad litem from public complaints.  

The Judicial Branch has settled on a process that is not consumer friendly, but it is very Guardian ad litem friendly. Its fancy legalistics make the current process look like a primitive bow and arrow approach.  It has been endorsed by 19 of the 20 Judicial Branch Committee members (one public member dissented in a “minority” report). It now goes to the Judiciary Committee of the Legislature for approval. We sincerely hope that it isn’t approved.

The basic structure of what is being proposed adds several layers of complexity and will take considerable time to complete. It will be administered by The Overseers of the Bar, which is under the Judicial Branch.  As we understand it, the steps one would have to go through would roughly follow:

  1. File your complaint in writing (no instructions yet), and a staff lawyer on the Overseers of the Bar will review the complaint to decide whether or not it has merit, and you will be told why. If it is felt to be without merit, then the complaint would die here. If it is felt to have merit, then it goes to a panel, a committee, the majority of whom are Guardians ad litem.  Consumers are also on the panel buy in a minority position, and we don’t know how consumer is defined: friends of Guardians ad litem or consumers who will advocate for the public?
  2. The first Panel - would review the complaint and conduct an investigation of the complaint. This process could take anywhere from one month to five or six. If the first Panel determines there is no merit to the complaint, it is rejected and the reason for rejection is sent to both the Guardian ad litem and complainer. If on the other hand the complaint is accepted, then it goes to the second Panel.
  3. The second Panel - would review the complaint independently and conduct an investigation of the complaint. This process could take anywhere from one to (unknown) months. If the second Committee determines there is no merit to the complaint, it is rejected (dismissed). If on the other hand the complaint is accepted then it goes to what would amount to as a mini trial.
  4. The Mini Trial - Both sides would come together to plead their case. You as the person who filed the complaint would have to prove that the Guardian ad litem had abused his/ her position/ role. The Guardian ad litem would have to prove nothing. The burden of proof is on the one complaining. If you were not able to prove your case the trial would end end the complaint would be dismissed.

In all fairness, we may have some of this legalistic tangle wrong. Our excuse is that we haven’t been to law school yet, but we’re considering it! Our own difficulty in understanding this process, as informed consumers makes the point that it is indeed confusing. As a consumer - would you feel comfortable when faced with such a daunting labyrinthine task as we understand it?

The Judicial Branch, in proposing this complex, lengthy  process, is saying to the public that they want nothing to do with oversight. That the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the consumer to determine quality of their officers of the court. Can you prove we have a defective officer of the Court to two Panels of other Officers of the Court?  It is a tough assignment!  Can anybody do it?

As the consumer filing this complaint you quite possible will want to hire a lawyer. That will cost you the time and expense. An additional detail:  the Judicial Branch is asking to TAX every divorcing couple $100 to cover the cost of this extremely user-unfriendly process. Imagine the next time you go to a store and purchase something and being told that you are going to be charged extra - to cover the cost of any potential complaint you may have. The consumer who has little or no experience with this type of system that is being proposed will probably back off of the complaint because of the daunting process before him/ her. Is it any wonder that there have been only 2 complaints a year? This is a good way to make sure there are no complaints.

We urge consumers to ask their legislators to fight this Judicial Branch proposal. We urge consumers not to use it if it is approved. If you have had issues with a Guardian ad litem please contact us at

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute and how it advocates for GAL bill collection

If you visit the Maine Guardian ad litem Institute web site and read their Mission Statement you will read about the noble cause that they have taken up for the child who finds him/ her self in the middle of a dispute between parents. The inference is about the compassion that they, as the Guardian ad litem trade organization, have for the child and the support that they give each other. It is in the Mission Statement that we see what Toby Hollander's Institute is all about. It is about the "compensation for those individuals serving as Guardian ad litem and providing mutual support and assistance on issues relating to the work of Guardians ad litem."

Currently, there is a case that was slated to be heard in the highest court, in which  we see the kind of support that the Guardian ad litem Institute gives to the rank and file. This case is about how the Institute advocates for the use of coercion by the courts to force a parent to pay for a Guardian ad litem services. That the Institute - in support of a particular Guardian ad litem - is  adding its voice in asking the court to have a parent thrown in jail, for non-payment of a GAL's bill. This seems to be one unappealing  interpretation of the Institute's Mission statement.  It is about Guardian ad litem compensation. In the end, it is not about what this court officer can do for the child. It is about what the court can do for this court officer - even if it means a parent is behind bars. One has to ask, how this kind of action is going to improve the welfare of a child? It makes one wonder about the bottom line; whose interest Maine's Guardians ad litem are really looking out for - theirs or the child?  And where are the courts when the public needs them?

It is planned actions like these that give the Maine Guardian ad litem a black eye. When they use the courts that they work in as "officers of the court" to be their "power bill collector" it may be legal, but it looks unfeeling. It looks like they are using their professional role connections for personal benefit. We feel that the Maine Guardian ad litem Institute has some serious public relations and identity problems. Do they want to be "part of the solution, or part of the problem?" Liens,  garnishing and jail for contempt don't cut it!

It you are having issues with a Guardian ad litem institute we encourage you to write to us. There are currently over 40 complaints about Guardians ad litem that we are aware of in the state of Maine.  The list continues to  grow. Is your Guardian ad litem part of this list? Please contact us at

Sunday, September 30, 2012

How does Toby Hollander and the Maine Guardian ad litem Institute really feel?

Stay tuned as we expose what concerns the Maine Guardian ad litem Institute the most? Money, power or influence? Find out how Toby Hollander and the Maine Guardian ad litem Institute really feels about you...... The consumer.....

in the next 24 hours....

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Maine's Judicial Branch Bullet Proof GALs

Maine's Judicial Branch is in the final stages of fine tuning a "new" Guardian ad litem complaint process.  From a review of this “new” proposal,which must go to the legislature for approval, we would say that the JB has done a masterful job of protecting Guardians ad litem, also known as"officers of the court".  The draft proposal, if it goes forward as is, will virtually guarantee each and every GAL that no complaint from the public will ever touch them.  They can remain free and  totally unaccountable.  It will be a huge relief for many Guardians ad litem whose activities have been the subject of much public anger about a malfunctioning GAL system and public calls for reform of the program.  No public complaint will break the tight legal barriers of the "new" complaint process, which appears even more likely to dismiss all complaints than the Judicial Branch's "old" complaint process.

Whew!  Looks like Guardians ad litem dodged that bullet!

It is a triumph of "foxes" designing security systems for the "hen house".  Credit must go to Justice Warren Silver and his committee of 20 who worked on the plan for an “open, fair process” for complaints about Guardians ad litem.  The huge preponderance of this 20 member committee were what might be called the Judicial Branch's core political  "base", Guardians ad litem, friends of Guardians ad litem, family court judges, and lawyers in the divorce "trade".  There was one lone member representing the public interest in this process.  There had been earlier talk of three public representatives, but, hey, why trouble the public about this sort of thing?  What does the public know anyway?  One public member should be plenty!

One of the curious paradoxes about this committee with a "reform" mandate from the Chief Justice was that the majority of the members openly (and sometimes heatedly) expressed their feeling that there was "no problem" with the system, especially the current complaint process.  Many felt the push for change was the result of political action by a small, noisy group that didn't reflect the views of most people using Guardians ad litem in their divorce. One family lawyer was vehement in his views about clients who want to complain: "Make them pay!  It's about ego!"  And ... the committee proposal does follow his strongly expressed suggestion. Those who use Guardians ad litem in their divorce will pay an upfront "tax" to support the complaint process and another fee for making a formal complaint.

Make ‘em pay!

The complaint process itself will be housed in the formidable bastion of the Overseers of the Bar and administered by them.  An administrative lawyer will do a screening check on all public complaints. If these complaints are felt to have merit, they will be passed on to a 12 member "volunteer panel" for determination of action on the complaint.  But ... what a panel!  10 Guardians ad litem and two members from the "public".  We're not sure what "public" means (friends and families of Guardians ad litem, agency people or Mr and Mrs “Grass-roots America”?).  We're wondering why 2 members of the public? For true GAL peace of mind, one or, better, none, should suffice.  Keep it a friendly little group of  like-minded colleagues.

Consumer protection?  Please, just trust the integrity of the JB, and its GAL "officers of the court".  We consider that our whole operation is about consumer protection.  Just take property liens, garnished wages and jail! These protect consumers from breaking the law for non-payment of their GAL’s bills. We protect consumers all the time.

Er, ...  do Guardians ad litem know how to judge their peers, or have they any experience in self-policing?  Do they even know or follow their own Rules and Regulations?   Do they have any experience with “consumer protection” issues? No, but that means they will be more spontaneously  empathic and “culturally sensitive” to colleagues who are beset by complainers and bad sports.  They are not bogged down by knowledge.  Dismissed, dismissed, dismissed!   What training does it take to say, “Dismissed”?  These complainers wanted change. You can be sure we'll give them “change”, but our change may not pan out to be what these “bad sports” wanted!

As you can see it is an elegant judicial sham.  It uses the ‘gravitas’ of the Overseers of the Bar to cover a heavily weighted panel of 10 Guardians ad litem whose threadbare training and experience  give them no preparation to address consumer complaints about malfunctioning colleagues and friends. But ... it takes no experience or education to say, “Dismissed!”  It is in essence a mini court trial in which “the burden of proof” is on the consumer.  Prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you got a “lemon”.

How on earth  did we end up in a formal courtroom type of  process when we wanted to report vocational malfunctioning to the workers overseers? All we wanted was corrective action from those in charge at the JB.

Given that Maine’s licensing boards offer  consumer protection and consumer friendly models for addressing malfunctioning professionals, one has to ask:

Will the legislature buy these new “bullet proof vests” for Guardians ad litem with public money?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Are Guardians ad litem above the Rules and Standards?

Maine's Judiciary has Guardian ad litem Rules and Standards on their web site.  They state quite clearly that the Supreme Judicial Court “has adopted Rules and Standards of Practice for Guardians ad Litem in Title 19-A and Title 22 cases.” In other words the Guardians ad litem that they roster – or give their seal of approval to, must abide by these rules and standards. Or does it?

What is the reason for posting these Rules and Standards for the public?

  1. They are posted to help the public understand how a Guardian ad litem is supposed to operate. They are the law in which they and the Judges that manage them must operate within.
  2. They are posted to help the public understand the role of the Guardian ad litem. These Rules and Standards though are applied when convenient for the courts to use them. How and when they are used is kept from the consumer as they really do not understand this type of thing.
  3. The Rules and Standards have been posted for the public’s benefit to give a warm and fuzzy feeling. The Rules and Standards in reality have no meaning and the court all but ignores what is written.

Although it is possible that of the three examples there have been instances where the first was actually applied – it is not known when that may have been the case. The second example like the first is non-existent. With the third example there are numerous instances that can be found dating back to 2003-04 (and possibly before) where Maine's Courts and Guardians ad litem have chosen to ignore the Rules and Standards. What does this mean to the consumer of this system that experiences a Guardian ad litem that operates outside of these rule and standards and you complain about him/ her? It means that the Judiciary has no interest in correcting the behavior of its own but will correct your behavior if you cause too much trouble.  Maine's Judiciary has ignored a problem that has been around for more than a decade. How many people have been hurt by the resistance to admit there is a very real problem? That is something that we are only now just beginning to see.  The current window dressing for oversight and accountability that we have seen is just that – Window Dressing – to satisfy the rank and file so that at the end of the day they – Maine's Judiciary, Judges and Guardians ad litem can path themselves on the back and say they did a great job helping out those poor consumers. Maine's Judiciary, Judges and Guardians ad litem are in need of a little reality and accountability.

If you or someone you know has been hurt in a divorce where a Guardian ad litem was involved please contact us at

To view the current Rules and Standards published by Maine's Judiciary please follow these links:



Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sorry, GALs, the Days of Wine and Roses are Numbered

A plumber will pay $100 or more for their license. This same plumber needs 1 year of technical college and must pass a Journeyman Plumber exam. If you pass the test you must work under the supervision of a Master Plumber for 2000 hours to take a Master Plumbers exam.  The technical education and the supervised practice are to protect the public and to assure the  quality of plumbing professionals.

If you want to go lobstering you must pay $125 for the license and then it is .80 cents per tag. The potential Lobsterman has to be an apprentice for over 1000 hours to obtain the license.

In the State of Maine you have to have a license from one of the Administrative Branch  licensing boards if you are an Accountant, Doctor, Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Therapy Assistant, Oil and Solid Fuel Technician, Physical Therapist, Social Worker and more than 50 other professions.  These licenses are mandatory if you are to work in the specific profession. The government requiring a license for these professions means that as consumers we can rest assured that the professional person dealing with you has a minimum of training. That there is some form of  regulatory oversight of the occupation involved, because the trade or profession requires some type of specialized skill for the safety and well being of the public. Government and society have deemed that we do not want charlatans delivering  "free-for-all" services, and licensing with testing, continuing education requirements and periodic  license renewal is an accepted method of regulation and oversight. The board that grants the license is also the regulator .

Then there are the Guardians ad litem "professional". These "professionals" are "trained" for 16 hours. Unlike the other professions that have to be licensed the Guardian ad litem does not, nor are they tested on what they learned in the 16 hours. They do not have to apprentice under an experienced Guardian to learn the applied ropes of practice. Guardians ad litem do have continuing education requirements. While one would hope  that the courses for continuing education would be related to the work - from what we have seen this is not always the case. Unless bill collecting and practice management are considered essential technical courses for a Guardian ad litem. Maybe bill collecting is essential as the bills often put parents into bankruptcy.  Then, unlike other professionals  whose license are dependent on continuing education, Guardians ad litem in Maine can fulfill their continuing educational requirement through the Maine Guardian ad litem Institute (MEGALI). This is the  trade organization for the Guardians ad litem and an unregistered lobby for them.  We hear that it wants to be officially sanctioned to provide the required continuing educational experience. This trade organization has no oversight as an educational institution.  It simply decides what courses to market and sells them to members for continuing education credits.  No one supervises these courses, or evaluates their usefulness for job performance.   Without oversight they could hypothetically offer a course on the interior decoration of a Guardian ad litem's office, for 6 CME credits.

There is a very real need to have Guardians ad litem licensed by a professional board with experience in doing this - one with a consumer protection focus.  It should not be done through the Judiciary, which lacks experience in consumer protection and oversight. There is also a very real need to have the continuing education revamped and managed though a University or Community College. There is a desperate need to provide an educational experience that has substance and a job-related focus for people interested in becoming a Guardian ad litem. If Maine continues on the present course without change,  it is guaranteed that future Guardians ad litem will have continuing, severe issues and conflict with those they are supposed to be working for and with.

If you have had problems with a Guardian ad litem or want more information about the issues surrounding this profession please feel free to contact us at:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Maine Guardians ad litem Oversight, Training and Accountability

A Guardian ad litem is created by Maine's Courts- from start to finish - with a mere 16 hours of training and a notebook. After this, a  Guardian ad litem is let loose on Maine's unsuspecting public and able to charge $125-$200 per hour.  There is no cap on their charges, no restriction of their activities, no enforcement of the rules they are supposed to follow, no supervision and no oversight.  Unbelievable?  But true!

If in the course of a custody battle you ask for a Guardian ad litem be thankful if you have one assigned that is fair and neutral and that follows the "Rules and Regs" for GALs. If you are unlucky  then be warned that it will be almost impossible to remove the Guardian ad litem. Filing a complaint about a GAL will also be useless.  There are no instructions, no guidelines for consumers to follow and no help from the Chief Judge's office.  Under the current system, Maine's courts look at a complaint from a legalistic standpoint, like an adversarial challenge- and not from a consumer's point of view as a call to a manager to investigate vocational functioning . Currently complaints will resolve nothing in terms of seeking to manage or to correct the behavior of the Guardian ad litem. Maine's courts do not understand the concept of consumer protection from flawed workers. Instead Maine's courts respond to consumer complaints with a process that protects the GAL as "an officer of the court".  It is like trying to remove a judge!

Guardians ad litem can bill what they want and for as much as they want. They do not have to justify their billing and may use the courts in which they work to collect their bills or set penalties for slow payers. Oh, and let's not forget that these bills cannot be discharged in bankruptcy court (there is a good chance you will find yourself there as a result) - and the courts could have you jailed for failure to make payment.

Accuracy and first hand evidence aren't necessary for these "16 hour wonders" to do their required reporting to the courts. They can present hearsay evidence  as fact and most courts will accept it. They do not need to be factual in the work they do and this will slip by unchallenged. Guardians ad litem can make wild speculative claims about events that may/ or may not happen in the future, sometimes referred to by informed critics  as "junk science". The courts will accept these "junk science" claims as fact - and, worse, base judgments on them. They can choose to ignore serious health and child endangerment  issues, and the courts will not enforce the fact that failure to report dangers to children is a violation of state law and is mandated reporting. GALs can endorse social behaviors that most normal people would find shocking and Maine's courts will accept this lack of common sense, if the GAL puts a "junk science" spin on it. The Guardian ad litem system and Maine's family courts frequently appear to have lost any common sense.

Maine has a serious GAL problem that has kept the state in the bottom of national rating systems for years. The role of Guardian ad litem will not go away and change is opposed by GALs.  Further, they are aligned with powerful political forces that fight GAL reform.. The Guardian ad litem Institute and some of its members, who are in Maine's legislature, will lobby to keep things the way they are.  $125 to $200 per hour, no supervision, no enforcement of rules and regs., no oversight looks pretty good!  Why change a "good thing"?. Many of these people are blind to the hurt and anger they are causing - looking down on the public they are supposed to serve and blaming their client for complaining. They are wrong and there is growing public and consumer sentiment to back this up.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Family Courts and our Children..... Is this how Justice is served?

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 is set up as. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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'.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. A Guardian ad litem producing a bill that represented 26% or the combined income of the parties involved in the divorce.
  1. 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 and tell us your story.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Maine's courts ignore Rules and Standards for Guardians ad litem

The Rules and Standards for Guardians ad litem are posted on the Maine's Judiciary web site. The rules and guidelines are there for the public to view. To help them understand the process that the courts and Guardians ad litem must go through and adhere to while caring out their job and responsibilities.

Unfortunately when it comes to the Rules and Guidelines it is not known whether Maine's courts and Guardians ad litems really must follow them. In the past two years there have been 28 complaints that resulted in 2 reprimands. One written the other verbal which eventually resulted in dismissal of those Guardians ad litem. Guardians ad litem and the trade organization Maine Guardian ad litem institution point to this static as proof that the current system is working the way it is supposed. What we are not told is the reason for these dismissals.

The two reprimands had nothing to do with:

  •  A child being burned by cigarettes – Section 6 (6.1) Mandated reporting: Where a “Guardian knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected” is supposed to report to DHHS and it is not.
  •  A Guardian ad litem must meet and establish a relationship with the child(ren) in any case. Section 2 (2.2) “Meet and Interview Child. Establishing and maintaining a relationship with a child is a foundation of the Guardian's duties.” - 30 minutes with a child does not constitute a relationship with a child(ren). Yet many Guardians ad litem only meet with child(ren) for not much more than this.
  • Under the rules section 3 (3.2), (12) “Working effectively with other professionals involved in the assessment or treatment of the child and/or parties to a child's case” - Guardians ad litem often use psychological testing as a weapon to control a party. This is often used time and time again against the party in question. If the party in question refuses the Guardian ad litem will use the court to force the issue. The use of professionals or programs by Guardians ad litem are without boundaries, goals or endings. They pose a huge financial burden on the party that it is being used against. This is not working effectively.
  • Guardians ad litem often do not explain the court process to child(ren) as they are mandated to do under section 3, (3.3).
We have on file over 25 complaints against Guardians ad litem that have merit. These are not complaints where the person complaining is upset with the outcome. These are complaints against the process that was used. These are complaints that we have collected since June 2012. These complaints under the current broken system would all be rejected and the Guardian ad litem would be exonerated. Maine is at the bottom for a reason. It is not because, as some would have us believe, that they system is working as it should. Maine is at the bottom because the Guardians ad litem operate in a system where they can do what they want with no repercussions.

For more information contact us at

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What is happening with Maine's Guardian ad litem reform?

Maine's Judiciary at the beginning of summer made efforts to display transparency in their efforts to reign in the issue of Guardian ad litem oversight. To date we have heard very little about what is going on and whether the outside consultants (National Center for State Courts) have made any recommendations at all.

The Judiciary is a tax payer funded institution and we have a right to know what is happening. What changes are being recommended? What has Maine's court system put into place? Or will this continue to be behind closed doors as is much of what happens with Maine's Judiciary?

Time will tell - and during this time more Maine families will continue to be hurt.

For more information please contact us at

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Who has oversight over Guardians ad litem in the State of Maine?

We believe the one big, overriding issue for Guardian ad litem reform is the total lack of oversight of their work. This issue has been identified by several other important groups before - but in thinking more deeply about this issue - it is more than just a lack of oversight in the form of supervision. It is that most (if not all) Guardians ad litem are licensed professionals - lawyers, social workers, and such. They are in professions that have legally mandated oversight by their various Maine boards of licensing, yet these professional boards seem to be disabled by current laws governing Guardians ad litem from taking any normal corrective action on complaints from the public.

The code of ethics and standards that apply to Guardians ad litem under their licensed professions - somehow don't apply when they are in the role of Guardian ad litem. As an example, a social worker working as a Guardian ad litem may use his/her Social worker status on his/her professional letterhead for all purposes. The social work letterhead markets the Guardian ad litem as a social worker to the public, yet if he/she violates code of social work ethics under that umbrella - while serving as a Guardian ad litem - he/she has immunity, by the mere fact of being a Guardian ad litem. The professional board is prevented from acting on its oversight function. The best it can do in an egregious situation is dismiss the case "without prejudice".

It seems to us that the very experienced Maine licensing board should have a major role in Guardian ad litem oversight - since they are already overseeing and licensing these professionals in their base professional capacity.  They should not be disabled from so doing by law.

The licensing board and the Judicial Branch might ask themselves - why shouldn't the same ethical and other professional standards apply to both professional situations simultaneously? Any additional regulatory requirements arising out of the Guardian ad litem role should be relatively easily added to the licensing boards mandate. The lines of professional accountability are currently very unclear for the consumer, who may incorrectly assume that a Guardian ad litem who is also a Social Worker or other professional (lawyer, doctor) will be held to the professional standards of their base profession. And they are not. When functioning as a Guardian ad litem, they are free from any accounting to their professional boards.

The current law governing Guardians ad litem allows someone in serious violation of the standards and ethics of their professional licensing board to continue to function as a Guardian ad litem, protected from any corrective action by their board just by the fact of being a Guardian ad litem. The law currently disables the professional standards of the licensing boards. An unprincipled Guardian ad litem is professionally bullet proof.

Please contact for more information.