Sunday, September 22, 2013

The “Best Interest Police” coming to your divorce

Looked at from a distance, the whole concept of Maine's Guardian ad litem program is hard to understand from its official description. From what we hear from its users, it doesn't do much-if anything- to help children. It is confusing (and expensive) for families. It is unmanaged and un-supervised and is not accessible to the kind of functional "corrective action" that is available to most public programs. As we see it - operationally, Guardians ad litem have virtually absolute power to act in whatever they choose with divorcing families and children. Compliance with "Rules and Standards for Guardians ad litem" has no enforcement, therefore is purely voluntary on the part of the Guardian ad litem. It is a truly unique institution in democratic America more like the apparatus of a police state.

It might be asked why do non-criminal, non-abusing, divorcing couples need the Best Interest Police to investigate and determine whether their parenting practices and attitudes are in their children's "best interest"? Why aren't all American parents under the surveillance of Guardians ad litem as "best interest police" for their children. In the interests of equal opportunity, shouldn't the parenting practices of all American parents - divorcing and non-divorcing - be watched and evaluated equally carefully for the child's "best interest"? The obvious answer is that a total surveillance of everyone's parenting practices by outside agents of the government, or by whomever, would bring on a violent upheaval that would make the American Revolution seem like a Sunday school picnic. Guardians ad litem in divorces are the "nanny state" on totalitarian steroids.

Conceptually, we would suggest that Guardians ad litem seem to function 'de facto' as "Child's Best Interest Police", empowered by judges to look for the "evil that lurks in the hearts of 'men' (humans)". Watch out as those neighbors, friends of your spouse and others line up to share their thoughts about your parenting skills (and much more) in secret exchanges with a Guardian ad litem. Though there are "Rules and Standards for Guardians ad litem", there is no administrative "oversight" (no enforcement) from the mother organization, the Judicial Branch of Maine government. Such "oversight" as there might be comes from a feeble complaint process that depends on the courage of consumers to face-off against the "Best Interest Police" in the "Mother house" of all lawyers, the Maine Overseers of the Bar.

It is a situation that is beyond "David and Goliath" to have the courage to complain to the Overseers. It is an all or nothing, winner-take-all situation and the odds against a complainer winning are formidable. Filing a consumer complaint, forces consumers to address both the substance of their Guardian ad litem complaint and the prejudice of the lawyers in the Overseers, who firmly believe that their colleague Guardians ad litem are "wonderful, do good work, help many children", unfounded opinions openly expressed by the Family Law Advisory Commission (and other Judicial Branch officials). How do you tell powerful people who admire and respect Guardians ad litem, that their colleagues, that the people they esteem have "messed up"? Where do you run for cover from a vindicated, vengeful Guardian ad litem when your complaint is dismissed? Where is the protection for a "complainer"?

It may be deemed impertinent for us to ask: "Why has no one ever done any formal program evaluation of this hugely expensive, , much criticized, run-away program? Are Guardians ad litem really "doing good work" or "helping children"? What do families say? What do children say? What do objective child-development evaluators (outside of the sweep of Judicial Branch/Muskie School influence) say? Is the program working for public benefit? Are kids better for having had a Guardian ad litem? After 39 years doesn't it need formal study and, perhaps, a bit of program tweaking? Where's the data? Why is there NO program evaluation data?

We would say that the absence of any well-founded program evaluation after 39 years is itself a public scandal. There are many symptoms of program dysfunction and many witnesses to this dysfunction. Program evaluation needs to move beyond judicial , "feel-good" anecdote.

Please comment here or contact us at There is also a Facebook page that is maintained that covers current issues and concerns. If you would like to express your opinion we would encourage you to take our survey on Guardian ad litem performance and or cost.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Putting a HALT to Readdiction and Relapse

Recently we have heard from parents who have gone through divorce and who have secondary custody to a drug addict and/or an alcoholic. Those who have shared their story with us have acknowledged that at times their ex spouse have made the attempt at sobriety with some success but the probability of relapse is extremely high for these individuals.

When a recovering addict has pain and/or sleep issues, medical professionals need to be careful on what it is that the recovering addict can or cannot be prescribed.

Authorities on addiction, like AA and Alanon say that an alcoholic/addict has  a sometimes fatal illness that  can be arrested but NEVER “cured”.  The disease is “incurable”.  However, with help, it can go into “remission” (or recovery) and remain in “remission”, if the alcoholic/addict stops drinking/drugging and continuously works a recovery program, such as AA or Alanon, etc

These programs also speak to life dangers that signal a risk of recurrence of the active illness, using the acronym: HALT, as a collection of generic warning signals:


A recovering addict/alcoholic is at greater risk of a “slip” into addictive activities when any one or more of these single symptoms is present, is unrecognized (denial) and un-dealt with by the recovering addict/alcoholic.  There is also the risk of re-addiction by medical persons who don’t fully understand addictions and  the terrible risk for a recovering addict when they prescribe sleeping pills, sedatives, tranquilizers, etc.  AA/Alanon call it “taking one’s booze in pill form.”  Addicts are particularly sensitive to these medications that sedate their brain and make their resolve to live soberly less strong.  A “slip” is very common  in recovery.

Addiction is one of the toughest diseases to combat.  Recovery programs say, stop feeling guilty/ashamed, start going to meetings, stop drugging/drinking and start to live soberly again with AA/Alanon program support.

It isn’t easy to cope with these illnesses, but it is vitally important to the addict and his/her family.

Additional credit to Dr. Jerome Collins

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