Saturday, February 22, 2014

Child Custody - An appeal to Maine's Supreme Court: Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521

It isn’t often that most people have a chance to read an actual divorce and custody story that is being appealed to Maine’s Supreme Court, as we write this. Child custody appeals are relatively rare. Most people, who might wish to appeal, are intimidated by the process; many are discouraged by lawyers, who don’t wish to offend a lower court judge by asking a higher court to intervene and correct a decision. Then, there is the huge amount of work involved and the not inconsiderable expense.

The process starts with a heartfelt disagreement with a lower court judgment and with the handling of the law in that court. It requires courage to challenge a family court judgment. It also always embodies a determined love of one’s child (children). In effect the appellant is very publicly saying - but in polite legal language - to the court, “You are dead wrong! Your judgment is not only unfair but badly arrived at. The tools you are using and the reasoning process are seriously defective!  I strongly protest!” How a skilled attorney approaches this problem and chooses the most important issues out of a welter of possible “plots, subplots and very involved stories” is a matter of legal judgment. Most of us, as parents and family would get lost in a morass of the details that go into a custody fight. The enclosed brief of this particular case demonstrates the vitally necessary partnership between lawyer and client. It is a union of “heart and courage” and ”head” - the level, focused intellectual crafting of the case essentials by a lawyer. It will be, I guarantee you, a most interesting and informative “read”.

We’ve been hearing from family members some of the unbelievable details of this case, Dalton vs Dalton, for just over a year. We have held our breath each time there has been a court hearing, hoping for fairness, for a reasonable turn of events, for a review of hard facts and for correction of a frightening nightmare of misperception being acted out in court. But the process seemed only to get worse as time went on. The extreme and inaccurate views of the court and a Guardian ad litem have, unfortunately, become ever more rigidly entrenched. Hence, the difficult decision to appeal.

We have to say, in no way to diminish this very troubling case, that from our experience with many other friends, the clumsy handling of this case in this court is, unfortunately, by no means unique. This case is a poster child for other very similar cases, and it is an urgent clarion call for urgently needed Family Court Reform in Maine. Like most Family Courts in America today, Maine’s courts are in the views of many, badly broken, dysfunctional and urgently in need of reconceptualization and reconstruction. They have lost their moorings in the law, and they are cruelly hurting many of the families and children that they are supposed to serve.

Please, read the enclosed pdf with the details of the Supreme Court Appeal and see what you think.  By all means, share it with friends and legal professionals.  Ask the questions: “Is this how our courts should function?  Is this your image of what you would expect from a court in a democratic society?”

Finally, who is in charge, where’s the oversight?

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  • for a copy of the brief that has hyperlinks to the referenced cases - please click here:  2014-02-23 Dalton V Dalton - ME Supreme Court Brief. This pdf will have to be downloaded in order for the links to function. 
  • The Maine Guardian ad litem Institute (MEGALI) the trade organization for Guardians ad litem will be submitting an amicus brief. The request may be found here (MEGALI). 
  • The response back from the court on the amicus brief (MEGALI).

Thursday, February 13, 2014

An Open Letter to a Maine Family Court Judge

Maine Family Court

Dear Judge,

I am writing this open letter, both for public educational purposes and as a “heads up” for the courts.  Along with other observers, I feel serious concern about recurring reports of  human rights violations emanating from your court in an ongoing  family dispute over child custody.

In one case in question, the “back story” has been going on for a considerable time, and the core issues in the case are not uncommon. One party’s aim seems to be to keep the other party from any normal custody sharing of their minor child. The strategy being used to achieve this is also a very common one: repeated allegations of abuse, anger and poor control. Despite the fact that the standard investigations into these allegations have found no substance to them, the allegations are repeated over and over.  As we know, this tactic can be an effective courtroom maneuver to hold off “the enemy”. This type of dramatic claim effectively renders the court nervous and indecisive.  No evidence appears to be enough to lay such allegations to rest.  The accused party is unable to escape this persecution. There will be no end to strategic claims. So the court, not uncommonly, orders therapy; therapy for unspecified purposes or problems, with unspecified goals or end point, presuming that it might do some, nonspecific good, or at the least it puts off a decision. The court fails to realize that only a hungry therapeutic charlatan will accept a “therapeutic” task from a referral source that lacks a treatment focus (diagnosis), goals or a definable end point. Our core question is: what is the specific clinical problem for which therapy is being ordered? Key words: “Clinical problem”.

Most of these scientifically unfounded therapies with claims to treat some character trait which a judge finds undesirable are “junk” and produce no measurable or sustainable results. They are ordered by the court often under threat of “contempt”. And those subjected to this court prescription must pay for questionable therapeutic “goods”. They are a human rights affront, and they are such a regular part of the Maine family court ‘armamentarium’ as to be imagined by many as having some proven therapeutic validity (they don’t!).  It is about court enforced bogus therapy for non-criminal family court parties. Conceptually, it is akin to doing experimental treatment on people under order from the court! One asks, “Is forced participation in questionable “therapy” acceptable in a democratic society?”

Even more troubling to many observers, than “Junk” therapy is the not uncommon forced disclosure of a party’s personal therapy by family courts in  non-criminal cases.  It appears as if nothing is considered “privileged” in some courts but one’s attorney-client conversations. There are well-established, professionally-endorsed, standard protocols for disclosure of personal clinical information. They call for a freely granted informed consent for disclosure by the one who owns the actual information, the client. They also require that casual, speculative remarks made by a patient about others, who might be harmed by disclosures made in therapy, be redacted.  Patients will commonly talk about all sorts of people in their lives who may be harmed or damaged by publicly disclosing such comments. They are made by a patient who has assumed total confidentiality at the time of making them. Unredacted disclosure of this information and insensitive, unprotective handling of the content might spotlight (and harm) innocent persons and lead to further additional legal problems. We are told that opposing lawyers frequently desire a “peek” at these records and so does the lawyer’s client, the opposing party. The common claim we have heard is that it will ease the opponent’s mind to see what is going on in the therapy of the other side. We’d ask, to what purpose would the judge allow for such forced sharing with an open adversary? How will this disclosure help to achieve shared custody or benefit the child? How will the opposition read and (more importantly) understand the process from a therapist’s notes or- worse- a face-to-face interview with another’s personal therapist? The therapy will be “trashed by such a violation of confidentiality, and there will be a concomitant violation of the necessary trust for personal therapy. What sort of person is so grossly disrespectful of the individual privacy needed for personal healing as to demand a “peek” at therapy notes and in the process destroy the future of trust-based therapy?  Why would a court support this obviously demeaning, unethical request? It is a rude, destructive assault on treatment and on the person in treatment.

We are not trying to blame just one particular family court judge in our expression of concern about “human rights”. Unfortunately, we hear these gross, human rights violations all too often in many parts of the system. It desperately needs oversight and correction.

We write this in order to ask, “How can we correct these frightening human abuses? One suggestion is that the Maine legislature endorse a formal audit of selected courts to assess the occurrence of these substandard practices. While one might choose to audit all of Maine’s family courts, we’d suggest that given scarcity of resources for this undertaking that priorities might be given to courts in Biddeford, Rockland, Belfast and Portland. We’d be pleased to supply more specific details upon legitimate request.


Jerome A Collins, MD

cc Megalert.

For more information on the issues involved with the states Family Courts, Guardians ad litem and court stakeholders contact us at of find us on Facebook.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Family Court Abuse - A Parents Perspective

Dear Dr. Collins (et al):

I cannot thank you enough for all that you do for the impoverished, broken, and voiceless.

I thank everyone within the MeGALalert circles for the pro-active stance that has opened doors once thought closed.

Our family's case is literally "killing" my almost 16 year-old daughter; that was her description - just yesterday - of how the numerous adversarial & prolonged family court procedures have adversely effected her.

At present, she is being held against her will within her dad's home: the Guardian ad litem (GAL) failed to hear her pleas of wanting desperately to move back in with her mother {me} . Additionally, the 2014 court order legally permits her father from allowing her visitation with her mother {me}.

The last GAL failed us on several occasions submitting an 18 page report filled with subjective information - mostly inaccurate & malicious information -- provided to her by my former husband.

The system has failed our family in 2009-2010 and in 2012 to present: both of us parents have considerable legal debt.

I am still in shock over the final judgment given to me just 2 days after I appeared in Portland (01/14/2104) to testify that I have been unable to contact Mary Ann Lynch via email.

I know both myself and my daughter suffer from a form of PTSD as a result of the on-going post-divorce conflict initiated by my former husband but fanned and fueled by those within the divorce industry.

Those who want to point fingers can point to my former husband or to me BUT the truth is, my former husband would not have been able to succeed in financially impoverishing me without the support of the divorce industry.

Collectively, our family has lost so much; the most tragic loss -- something that cannot be replaced -- is my young daughters childhood. Both teens suffer separately and differently from the conflict that results from drawn-out and highly contentious court proceedings.

Conflict is all that she knows / they know; the divorce industry knowingly or unknowing gave my former husband positive reinforcement every time he sought legal counsel to take me back to court -- twice since our original 2006 divorce.

Each consecutive court process took twice as long as the prior and the costs involved doubled from the previous process. I was just getting out of legal debt from the 2009-2010 process when my former took us back to court in 2012. That process lasted 18 plus months and cost me over $20,000 when I only earned $10,000 in 2012 and $12,000 in 2013 (I was a full-time USM student until this past May).

Presently, my debt is so astronomical that that my ability to pay court ordered child support {calculated - mind you -  on a salary that I did not actually earn} has been greatly hindered: how is any of this in the best interest of either teen? Or, the Maine tax payers? Or, to our society???

As a result of the collusion between the divorce industry and my former husband, my daughter has fallen deeper and deeper into a depressions; she has twice attempted to end her life {May and September of 2013}.

Maine care has picked up all of the costs for her medical care. Maine tax payers are footing the bill and , we as a society, are potentially losing a once energetic, civic-minded, and highly accomplished student to a major depression and self-harming behaviors both beginning after she was taken out of my home in 2010 and placed in the care of her dad.

I suggest that the mayor and the divorce industry consider a "Truth and Reconciliation Act" in order to acknowledge the pain and suffering that has taken place -- for decades upon decades -- as a result of such a broken system.

Since 2006, I have suffered - as well as the two minors -- enormous losses:

1. Loss of primary home in 2010;
2. Loss of $100,000 equity in that primary home (2012 York, Maine);
3. Loss of all material possessions sold off to pay down legal debt;
4. Loss of family pet as former husband adopted the dog out of the family once he was granted custody of both minors and their dog in 2010.
5. Decrease in credit score by 100 points due to inability to pay mortgage on primary home when former spouse was advised- by his lawyer-  to stop making child support payments in order to force me into signing 2010 post-judgment agreement;
6. Loss residential custody of both teens due to loss of primary home (temporarily left homeless);
7. Loss 1/2 retirement fund in 2010 court process to pay GAL, legal fee's and mortgage payments;
8. Loss all of savings to date; accrued credit card debt is now equal to my 2013 annual salary; loss all assets with exception to my vehicle that allows me to travel 3 hours a day to my full-time job;
9. Loss ALL parental rights and responsibilities and all decision making powers due to erroneous GAL report and due to her recommendation that losing all rights would end conflict;
10. Loss visitation rights as all visitation is now up to the discretion of my former husband who has been the instigator for all post-judgment discord;
11. The stress  and the conflict has interfered with my work at present, has created ongoing and extensive medical expenses, and has left our daughter suicidal as well as feeling hopeless about her future;
12. The scars left on the hearts of my two teenagers as well as myself may or may not ever heal; time will tell. There is nothing more psychologically harmful than to lose the right to parent: from 1996 until 2014, I gave my life to my children. I intended and strove to raise well-adjusted, law abiding, and well-educated young adults. That right has been taken from me; the family court system partook in that loss of civil liberties.

The time for healing is now.

Please allow those of us who have to live with these court ordered "solutions" to family matters be a part of the solution for creating a system that heals and supports healthy family relations rather than a system that fuels the flames of discord in order to "win" a case; we have a vast amount of anecdotal information that would be an invaluable resource for those who are truly vested in the well-being of Maine's children and in the health and welfare of the state of Maine as a whole.

With sincere gratitude for your time and consideration~


Former resident of York Maine
Present Maine tax payer
Social Justice Advocate

This letter was written to the courts and state government and came about as a result of the post "A Maine Commission to Assess the Impact of Divorce and Custody on Maine Children and Families". To read the letter to Gov. Paul LePage follow this link.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

A Maine Commission to Assess the Impact of Divorce and Custody on Maine Children and Families

RE:   A Maine Commission to Assess the Impact of Divorce and Custody on Maine Children and Families.

The Governor

State of Maine

Dear Governor LePage,

Divorce in Maine, when child custody is involved, has evolved into an expensive, barbaric, often cruel process.  Custody decisions by our courts often seem irrational and  participants all too often find it impossible to correct a bad decision  or a bad process.   At Maine Guardian ad litem Alert (MeGALert), based on the data from our many contacts with people in the terrible  throes of divorce, we  increasingly feel that there is a need for a Maine Commission aimed at assessing the impact of divorce and custody on Maine children and families- and  recommending  repairs to a badly broken family court system. 60 % of American marriages  are reported to end in divorce, and Maine is no different from the rest of the US. But beyond dry statistics, our experience with hundreds of individuals tells us that there are psychological, social and economic side effects of the family court experience, that wreck the lives of those that have gone through divorce for years to come. It is a shameful record. It calls for action.

Although we would certainly support a broadly focused Commission that took a total systems approach, we would suggest that there are several important  areas where a narrower commission might assess serious problems and propose solutions without crossing the boundaries of another branch of government: (a) the economics of divorce and its impact on the present and future of (60%) Maine citizens and on the state itself, (b) the jurisdictional disputes about which of two branches of government has final responsibility  for defining and resolving the diagnosis of adult or child abuse in divorce, and (c) problems associated with the family court’s  use of and referrals to state sponsored/funded clinics by the Judicial Branch. This includes patient’s right to privacy issues; standards of the types and forms of  treatment; court-ordered, mandatory treatment; treatment effectiveness evaluations; confidentiality and the human rights issues of those receiving services.

1.) Economic problems of divorcing in Maine.  The short story is that it is very expensive, running to thousands of dollars, with courts putting no limits on the charges to citizens from a growing number of ancillary players, in  a growing number of questionably effective peripheral  services.  The growth of these unevaluated “new” services- often court mandated- have become a part of an very expanded, very expensive “divorce industry”. Families are impoverished. Retirement and college funds are emptied.  Homes are mortgaged to the hilt. Credit from relatives and families is exhausted.  It is an expense with no boundaries and it grows year by year. We have to ask: Is a booming economic expansion of the “divorce industry” retarding investment in other “industries”? The Judicial Branch keeps virtually no data, our group has some limited financial data. However, there is a need to measure the problem, its growth and to propose solutions.  Money drained from our economy by the “divorce industry” is money not available for other more productive investments; homes, education and retirement - just to name a few.

2.) Allegations of child or spousal abuse are all too common in contested divorces. Some allegations are real and serious and require appropriate action; other abuse claims are “strategic”, and need investigation and then labeling as such. At the moment, there is all too often a “turf war” between the Children's Protective program (under Human Services) and the Judicial Branch Guardian ad litem program about which entity has the final say in abuse allegations. There are likewise “turf wars” between Guardians ad litem and those trained specialist professionals who assess “dangerousness” and other dysfunctional issues.  It all too frequently happens that, if opinions of trained professionals do not concur with a Guardians ad litem opinion, they are frequently ignored in favor of the Guardian ad litem’s more expensive opinion, a continuing investigation by the Guardian ad litem. It should be remembered that Guardians ad litem have only 16-20 hours of training and no supervision when they override the findings of those with more training and supervision.  It should also be remembered that continuing to investigate “abuse” generates significant “billable hours” for Guardians ad litem and burdens families with these costs.  More important is the question of whether someone with less knowledge, skill and experience will do a better job of danger evaluation for children and families than someone with specialist education, experience and supervision?

3.) State sponsored or financed services and clinics are frequently used as referral sources by Guardians ad litem and by Maine’s courts.  The courts keep no statistics about the number of court referrals, which would help to describe (a) the size of their usage, (b) the problems encountered, (c) the outcomes  of treatment- both short and long term.  What is  the impact of court mandated treatment on children and families?  Are these court forced  referrals doing any measurable good?  How do they help? What are we getting for our public  money?  Are the services requested by courts- such as various untested, unproved behavior change therapies-  scientifically grounded?  Is the state paying for “experimental” services on court referred children and adults  There is also the ethical/human rights issue of court mandated treatment in non-criminal cases.  Confidentiality issues and demand for what should be considered privileged information are troubling and, we are told,  don’t follow national standards. There are instances of Guardians ad litem sharing this clinical information- without “releases”- with other Guardians ad litem and with unauthorized persons, using the threat of contempt if permission to release information is not granted. It is an area that cries for study and repair.

These are just a few areas that might occupy the scrutiny of a circumscribed Commission to the benefit of our children and families. We would be pleased to discuss further any of these suggested ideas, and we recognize that these suggestions are  just conversational openers. It seems important to us to give a more human, rational  experience to children and families in divorce, the consumers of service.


Jerome A Collins, MD

CC: Maine Guardian ad litem Alert

To read one view from a parent on the judicial abuse she has suffered. Please follow this link to read "Family Court Abuse - A Parents Perspective"

For more information on what is wrong with  Family Courts and Guardians ad litem in the state follow us on Facebook or email us at