Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Parental Interference in Your Relationship Goes Beyond Just You and Your Child.

“I know you don’t want to go see Grammy and Grandpa this weekend.” “We are going to go to have fun while you are with Grammy and Grandpa and I’m so sorry you won’t get to go.”

“As soon as you are older, you can tell the judge how much you don’t want to see Grammy and Grandpa and you won’t have to go over there anymore.”

The above are examples of common forms of parental alienation. Most frequently used in divorce, these techniques can also be used to alienate grandchildren against their grandparents when the parent and grandparents do not get along.

It is most frequently the mother who engages in this kind of behavior but fathers have also been known to do it, if not at the rate of frequency of their female counterparts). Since both sides engage in this practice, I will refer to the alienating parent as “the alienator” through the rest of this article.

Other examples of alienating behavior include the following kind of statements when the child speaks with the alienator by phone while visiting his/her other family:

“Your pet misses you so much. He’s been whining and crying because he’s so sad that you aren’t here.”

“I miss you so much. I’m so sad that you aren’t here. I just cry and cry and cry every night while you’re away.”

“The house so so empty without you. I miss you and can’t wait for you to be back here.”

You sound upset. Are you okay? Do you miss me? Do you? You really sound upset. Are you crying? Are you crying because you have to stay with Grammy and Grandpa instead of being here with me?”

You may notice, especially if you have been forced to go to court to secure rights of access and visitation to your grandchildren, that the child grows sad, quiet, or withdrawn after speaking with the alienator.

The child may also cry or be upset during exchanges. Children are incredibly sensitive to their caretaker’s wishes and, since their caretakers are those who provide , clothing, shelter, and love for the child, the child will, naturally, wish to please them and keep them happy. The alienator preys on this innocence and uses it to get the child to act out, crying, screaming, throwing tantrums, declaring hatred for the other party, etc, in order to confirm the alienator’s beliefs. The alienator cannot accept that the child can love and have a good time with people the alienator does not like so the alienator will frequently prompt the child to say that they are having a horrible time, that they are bored, that they hate being away from the alienator. The alienator will also prompt the child to cry.

Alienation is very subtle in some cases. In others, it can be quite blatant. You must be on the watch for it and be prepared to handle it with the child in an age-appropriate manner. First of all, you must realize that even if you think that the alienator is a complete waste of a perfectly good zygote, the child does not see it that way. The child loves his/her caretakers even if you don’t. Do not project your dislike of them onto the child’s relationship with them. Instead, speak positively about them and encourage the child’s relationship with them. Remember: this is the child’s relationship, not yours.

When the alienator engages in the above kinds of behavior, try to remind the child that the child does enjoy being with you, that the child does have a good time with you, and that you understand that the child misses the alienator.

Validate the child’s feelings. Help the child to express them. Help the child reality-test any claims made by the alienator (ex: “We do have fun over here. Remember last month when we went to FUNPLACE2 and you did FUNTHING?”) Then remind the child that these are adult problems and that the child should not be involved in them. Let the child know that the child can love both you and the alienator and that you will never, never make them choose between you.

As the child grows older, especially into the teen years, try to temper your understanding of the difference between alienation and normal teenage independence. While you should never make the child your confidant or speak about court proceedings with the child, it may be okay (I am not a parent so take this with a HUGE heaping of salt) to explain a little more — in an age-appropriate manner — about why you and the alienator do not get along. Still, remember to validate the child’s feelings, to help them express those feelings fittingly, and then to remind the child that the child can love both of you.

Remember that, no matter what, you should not seek to involve the child in an adult matter. Even teenagers do not have the life experience or emotional maturity to understand or deal with adult strife. Teenagers may think they do (I certainly did!) but they do not. No parent worth the name would allow their children to be dragged into a conflict between the parent and another adult. Indeed, a good parent and would forbid the child to even think about participating in the conflict. The adult arena is no place for a child — not even a teenaged child.

Credit: Grandparents Rights

Please contact us for support at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook for up to date information on this and many other topics.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is this Child Endangerment or Just a Legal Formality?

On July 8, 2013 for the first time a bill was signed into law that attempts to control the actions of Guardians ad litem in the state. To control the Judicial abuse that many parents have to deal with as a result of a divorce and or custody in Maine. July 8, 2013 while Governor Paul LePage was signing that bill our Judiciary was displaying the sensitivity that it has come to be known for. A parent who has been battling the courts and his ex for prescribed medical treatment that his son is in need of had asked the courts to look at and address this issue. This was denied that day by the higher courts.

Can this be considered a form of Child Abuse? Is this why so often we find that Guardians ad litem do not report abuse to the courts?

This parent has the prospect of going to court to fight a system that is turning a blind eye to a problem. Better to push the problem off on someone else than deal with the problem now. Will the courts be held accountable if this child comes to harm as a result of this negligence?

Several years ago there was a case where the father of a child that hit a brick wall when trying to get answers from Maines department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It was in many respects similar to this case. He was told that the acting mother did not have Maine Care insurance yet (this from both the acting mother, Guardian ad litem and the attorney for the mother). It was discovered on a visit to the doctors by the father that the acting mother had the insurance for her half brother - and had it for several months. In trying to secure a card for his son the father went to DHHS directly only to be told because of HIPPA regulations they (DHHS) could not talk with him about his son nor could the father request a card for his son. In fact DHHS could not even admit that the child was even in the system to the father. The acting mother was asked to give permission to DHHS so that DHHS could speak with the father - this was denied by the acting mother. The Guardian ad litem did nothing to help. The father's lawyer became involved only to be told the same thing. That the father of the child was not entitled to any information about his son that DHHS had on file unless the mother or acting mother gave permission for this to happen. In effect the father - was being prevented from caring for his son - yet was responsible for the medical care of his son. Information about his son was being kept from him by a system that essentially was saying that who ever got there first was in charge - this was admitted by several DHHS employees that the father talked with. In the end the father through his lawyer was able to secure a Maine Care Card that would allow him to at least take his son for treatment. Was this necessary?

One has to ask - how can a parent do what is right for their child(ren) if he/ she is prevented from doing so. If information or services are denied to a child for the mear reason of hurting the other parent. In the end the parent that is denying access (or at least making it hard to come by) is directly hurting his/ her child first and the other parent second. In the current case that is going on the courts have been put on notice that there is child neglect going on as the child is being denied his prescribed medical treatment. Court officers are mandatory child abuse and neglect reporters who must take action to protect the best interest of the child. While the higher court in this case appears not to want to steal the lower courts thunder - this parent approached the higher court because the lower courts were delaying any judgement. This parent has the prospect of waiting months before a judgement will be rendered. Meanwhile this parent's child will continue to go without treatment.

If you have conerns about a Guardian ad litem, Parental Coordinator or a Family Lawyer please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or stay up to date at Facebook.

We also encourage you to take our survey on Guardian ad litem performance which can be found here: GAL Performance Survey.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

In the Child's Best Interest - July 8 2013 - Guardian ad litem Reform in Maine

Monday, July 8th is a day for Maine children and families dealing with some aspect of divorce, to celebrate. Against all odds, against our wildest expectations, in our first year of existence as "grass-roots" advocates, we have a comprehensive Guardian ad litem reform bill! And... believe it or not, Maine - dare I say it - is leading the country.

It isn't that other states haven't done bits and pieces of Guardian ad litem reform, a legislative "tweak" here or there, but, as we well know, all would-be "change agents" face awesome "headwinds". The opponents of Guardian ad litem reform as we know are truly formidable. The Guardians ad litem themselves, the family lawyers, the family court judges and the whole apparatus of the Judicial Branch, the infamous "stakeholders" know the system, know the existing law, are well organized professionally and have the financial resources to wage a political war.

But we have made good friends who have spoken the truth, ever more loudly....

We have an ever growing, much cherished group of Megalalert friends. We have bit by bit, using modern media, expanded our group, talked, shared and born witness to the horrors of a serious Guardian ad litem scandal in Maine's Judicial Branch. The Judicial Branch's Guardian ad litem program - with no oversight, no supervision and legal codes that have further re-enforced a lack of accountability - have pursued the self interest of its workers without visible restraint. And many children and their families have been badly hurt, as a result. Despite the very defensive claims of the Judicial Branch that it is about "bad sports", people who have had a bad custody decision, this has never been the focus of our issues. Our issues are about cruelty in decision making, ignorance in practice and blind greed. Our issues are about governing structures in the Guardian ad litem program that don't work, that fail the people who need them most. Our issues are about a Guardian ad litem program data base on sheets of paper  in cardboard boxes in district courts, which the Supreme Court can't regularly access for management oversight.  They don't know they don't know!

Our friends have courageously born witness in public, legislative testimony.

We now have an educated legislature that has full knowledge of the Guardian ad litem problems, thanks to yeoman's work by Senator David Dutremble, Representative Lisa Villa, Senator Linda Valentino and other members of the Judiciary Committee. We have a unanimous majority of the 35 members of the Maine Senate, who see the Guardian ad litem problem. It would be hard to find legislators in denial, after an awesome  "educational session" with Senator Dutremble!

It is about everyone speaking the truth about the problem with simple courage.

It is also about support from the Executive Branch of our government: meetings of the Governor and constituents on Saturdays, as people poured out their hearts about personal victimization by Guardians ad litem, and the Governor listened.  It is about Executive Branch participation in planning legislation from the first meeting in December 2012.  It is about personal calls from the Governor to constituents, urging them to overcome their fears and testify to the Judiciary Committee on March 28, 2013. It is about the Governor signing the bill on July 8th.

At its core, it is an improbable story of "the power of the powerless", the power of "Truth" that can't be silenced, about courage and determination.

And ... friendship!

For more information please contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or like us on Facebook. In addition if you would like to express your opinion on the cost of Guardian ad litem service of the performance of a GAL. We would encourage you to take our survey. The results will be published later this summer (2013). The surveys can be found - here - Cost   Performance. Thank you.