Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"New Guardians ad litem do not have the experience" Sarah Stark Oldham

In state of Connecticut parents and consumers have been dealing with a horrific family court and Guardian ad litem mess for years. The situation is so bad that families have been bankrupt emotionally and financially as a result of the process. On October 31 the task force that was created to investigate legal disputes involving the care and custody of children heard from a number of people.

One of those who  gave testimony was Sarah Stark Oldham. Ms Oldham is the President of the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. During her testimony she defended the role of Guardians ad litem and the training of GALs. At one point Ms Oldham was asked why out of over a thousand certified GALs a judge would choose only out of a handful of Guardians ad litem - the response to that question was as stunning as it was troubling:

“Well, I think judges assign cases to a GAL who they think can handle the case and many of the new Guardians ad litem do not yet have any experience or the qualifications required to be assigned.”

The silence in the hearing room was deafening….

Rep. Minnie Gonzalez held up the list of court certified Guardians ad litem and said:  “I’m sorry, if we are now certifying GALs, then every one of the people on this list should be able to handle a case – otherwise what is the point of certifying them?”

“Well, they just have to take the classes, there is no test at the end or way for them to pass or fail.”

Thank you Ms. Sarah "Sally" Stark Oldham.  Thank you.

What Ms. Sarah "Sally" Stark Oldham confirmed for Connecticut and many other state Guardian ad litem education programs is that the training to become a Guardian ad litem is minimal at best and does little to prepare an up and coming Guardian ad litem on how to handle the complexities of a divorce/ custody. That Guardians ad litem are unleashed on an unsuspecting public able to make life changing decisions on people that they have little or no knowledge of. Decisions that have far reaching consequences and impact - yet are protected by a court system when a Guardian ad litem malpractices.

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1 comment:

  1. 1000 GALs and only a few are used in court cases - the fees charged might come down if there were a little competition amongst these people. That being said - the education that these people receive does not mean they will do the job let alone do it right. It only means that they have the minimum of skills to get the job done. All the education in the world is worthless if there is no accountability and management. This is an area that any state Judiciary is woefully inadequate to handle.