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