Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Late night bar hopping with a four year old

Is 'in the best interest' of the child according to one of Maine's Guardian ad litem's

As a parent if your four year old child came to you and told you she was scared of being in a situation your ex put her in what would you do? If your child was taken to an adult environment, a bar, late at night where there was loud music, alcohol and intoxicated adults involved. What would you do?  Would it make a difference if you were involved in a divorce and custody battle?

Most parents would try to take some kind of protective action for their child. If a Guardian ad litem was involved – you would complain to them; after all, that is what they are put in place for. Clearly a child (no matter what the age) being put into an inappropriate adult situation is not in the child’s best interest. Nor does the child feel emotionally safe. Common sense would dictate that this child (or any child) should be protected and removed from this situation or environment.

There is an actual case in Maine that has gone through the courts where common sense appears to have been thrown out the window. The Guardian ad litem in question is said to be one of the most senior Guardians ad litem in the state and is also a member of the Guardian ad litem Institute (the trade organization that promotes the interests of Guardians ad litem in the state of Maine). This Guardian ad litem has had criticism about her handling of other cases, in which there have been complaints against her. Her Judgment clearly seems questionable and; for that matter, the Judge who is reported to have agreed with this Guardian ad litem also seems off base.

The child in question told her father that she felt scared being in the bars to which she was taken by her mother. She witnessed fights and yelling, and her mom's boyfriend being pushed around. “Bad words” were often being said between people. When the father brought this to the Guardian ad litem's attention (the person who is supposed to be looking out for the best interest of this child) – the Guardian ad litem stated that the father simply did not trust that his four year old daughter was in good hands. The father, concerned for his daughters safety, continued to make his point and express his concern. His concern was not taken seriously by the Guardian ad litem. Instead of investigating whether or not the situation of a child’s late night visit to bars was good for the child, this Guardian ad litem continued to blame the father for trying to cause trouble.

How are we to believe, as this Guardian ad litem and the Judge would seem to be doing, that this little girl's 'best interest' was served by late night visits to bars that she found frightening? What about her emotional  safety? Is this kind of place a good moral environment for children? To say the least of what this child is learning from the experience? We would say that common sense was not used by the child’s mother nor by the Guardian ad litem for that matter. Sadly, this type of poor judgment is frequently seen with quite a number of Guardians ad litem in the State of Maine. Examples like this are the reason why there is now - and has been - a very real need for Guardian ad litem reform in Maine. Too much time has passed and too many families hurt by Guardians ad litem and the courts that 'manage' the Guardians ad litem. This should not go on any longer. Please contact us if you or your child have been hurt by the poor judgment and lack of common sense of a Guardian ad litem.



  1. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." With no oversight, no supervision, no recruitment screening and limited training these court official are a law unto themselves. Craziness prevails backed by "junk science".

    To add insult to injury the public is forced to pay for this!

  2. Thank you for the response. Yes what you say is very true and this has been going on for years. You are also correct in that the public is often forced to pay for the shoddiness of the 'work' performed by these people. It leaves a very bad taste in ones mouth - and very little compassion for these people and the destruction they wreak upon the public.

  3. The part about blaming the child's father by not trusting the child's safety in a bar is classic for some GALs. Blame the parent who rings the alarms.

    One father who had similar concerns about child safety was told he was too concerned about winning. And his concerns were ignored.

    Are Maine's children safe? Don't ask that question!

    We are told, "It is not in the child's best interest!"

  4. It seems like a trap set in a partnership from hell by the lawyer, the GAL and the judge. All 3 re-enforce craziness and force the parties "to live a lie". The client loses his/her dignity, and is humiliated ethically by being forced to play a role in a totally dishonest, corrupt process! The child too plays a role as a "student". Watch parents "live a lie", watch them act dishonestly, watch the social systems that are supposed to help/protect children, sell them down the river. What have you learned? Answer: everyone in my world is "shady"! Don't trust anyone. All of this is conducted at huge financial and emotional cost - to everyone!

  5. The more and more I read about people complaining about Guardian Ad Litems that do not look out for the best interest's of the child, the more and more it repulses me.

    This is just one more example of the bureauocracy of the Guardian Ad Litem Program that has absolutely no oversight.

    But wait there is more, send a complaint and it goes to Judge Mullen and if he doesn't like it, it goes Judge LaVerdiere. They both train GAL's with the Guardian Ad Litem Institute. Conflict of Interest? Public Outrage? There should be, there have been two reprimands to GALs over the last four years out of how many complaints?

    I cited several violations in my complaint, it was denied with any reasons why. There was nothing sent to me with the responses from that GAL, I was unable to attend any hearing. Why? Because they want me to go away. Judge LaVerdiere wants me to go away. His response, they told me that they didn't answer legal advice, I didn't ask any and then they sent me a copy of the GAL Handbook that I reported was violated several times by statute. This is a slap in my face from a public official that is the administrator of the whole program that has been in shambles for years. It is all about what is in the best interests of the child, not what is in the best interests of Lawyers/Judges that have a vested interest in lining other lawyers pockets or ensuring they get paid for their training of GALs. If the administrator of the GAL Program has any financial interests or other associations with the Guardian Ad Litem Institute, Toby Hollander or Executive Committee Members like Terry Hayes perhaps they should recuse themselves from the all hearing any administrative or disciplinary hearings concerning Guardian Ad Litems. If Judge Saufley truly wants to help, she will ensure that there is oversight for GALs sooner not later. Concerned parents are called hostile, unconcerned Guardians are called professionals, even when they break the law. I have a problem with this, call me HOSTILE but I prefer concerned father.

  6. Thank you for the reply. We have been working on this for awhile and I understand your frustration with what has happened. The GAL may have won the battle but has not won the war.

  7. What is most troubling in the current complaint process is the JB's failure to define publicly, transparently what would be a legitimate complaint and the relative seriousness of various infringements by GALs. Simply referring people to the rules and regulations for GALs is insufficient. The rules and regs give no hint as to which rules are really serious and which are trivial. There is no overall, general statement of goals for the complaint process in the Rules and Regs.. Is it aimed at protecting the public? Is it aimed at "quality assurance of the program? Is it silencing those who complain?

    It is the lack of help for those making complaints that sends a message: "You are on your own, keep guessing how to do a complaint, we don't really want to hear from you!" Other states provide instructions and make use of a form and indicate what sort of exhibits to use.

    The rest of the process is totally lacking in transparency. For example what did the GAL say in response to the complaint? You will NEVER know! How about rebuttal of the GAL's response? No way. Who was involved in determining the decision to dismiss? What was the reasoning behind a dismissal? None of these issues that are part of a typical oversight process in other agencies are addressed.

    It gives the Maine JB complaint process a bad name. It really should be called "The DISMISSAL Process". Because from a public perspective, it looks like ALL complaints are dismissed.

    2 reprimands in 2 years- give us a break!

  8. If "bar hopping" cigarette burns on a child, driving drunk with"baby on board", forcing therapy on normal people, etc, are not enough for even a simple JB reprimand or a GAL admission of a wrong and an apology, what is the complaint process about? Why does Judge Laverdiere seem so unable to say to a dysfunctional GAL, "This is sub-standard. You need 'human management' therapy!"?

    The non-verbal message to the complaining public seems to be, "Stop whining, you lost, now get lost!". Or ... "we just do DISMISSALS. You knocked on the wrong door."

    We sense that there needs to be oversight of this so-called oversight. We have wondered, "Can one branch of the 3 branches of government investigate another branch? Could the Administrative Branch do an "audit" of the JB complaint process on behalf of the public?

  9. We have the impression that our concerns are not widely understood or talked about. A lot of intelligent, aware people don't know what a GAL is. Fewer still know the terrible problems we have become aware of.

    It is a matter of public education about the seriousness of the GAL problem. We need to talk to anyone who will listen. Publish on the blog, and use the media whenever we can.