Sunday, June 29, 2014

According to Family Court - Field Trip to Bar Late at Night is Good for Child

File this under lack of Common Sense within the Family Court System -

As a parent if your four year old child came to you and told you she was scared of being in a situation your ex put her in what would you do? If your child was taken to an adult environment, a bar, late at night where there was loud music, alcohol and intoxicated adults involved. What would you do?  Would it make a difference if you were involved in a divorce and custody battle? It might.

Most parents would try to take some kind of protective action for their child. If a Guardian ad litem was involved – you would complain to them; after all, that is what they are put in place for. Clearly a child (no matter what the age) being put into an inappropriate adult situation is not in the child’s best interest. Nor does the child feel emotionally safe in these situations. Common sense would dictate that this child (or any child) should be protected and removed from this situation or environment.

The child in question told her father that she felt scared being in the bars to which she was taken by her mother. She witnessed fights and yelling, and her mom's boyfriend being pushed around. “Bad words” were often being said between people. When the father brought this to the Guardian ad litem's attention (the person who is supposed to be looking out for the best interest of this child) – the Guardian ad litem stated that the father simply did not trust that his four year old daughter was in good hands. The father, concerned for his daughters safety, continued to make his point and express his concern. His concern was not taken seriously by the Guardian ad litem. Instead of investigating whether or not the situation of a child’s late night visit to bars was good for the child, this Guardian ad litem continued to blame the father for trying to cause trouble.

How are we to believe, as this Guardian ad litem and the Judge would seem to be doing, that this little girl's 'best interest' was served by late night visits to bars that she found frightening? What about the child's emotional safety? Is this kind of place a good moral environment for children? To say the least of what this child is learning from the experience? We would say that common sense was not used by the child’s mother nor by the Guardian ad litem for that matter. Sadly, this type of poor judgment is frequently seen with quite a number of Guardians ad litem in the State of Maine. Examples like this are the reason why there is now - and has been - a very real need for Guardian ad litem and Family Court reform.

MeGALert is a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting parents who have been abused by the family court system. In addition we educate and promote reform through legislation - both here in Maine as well as nationally. We would encourage you to contact us at and tell us your story. In addition we may be found on Facebook.

The Power of the Powerless - 2012 by MeGALert

Family Court Survey - We want your opinion regarding the experience you had in Family Court.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Basic Tool Kit for Grass Roots Family Court Reform

We have been asked by many people how we got MeGALalert, our Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform program, started and what beginning grassroots activists should do to get going?  We grew our program, MeGALalert by stages and degrees, learning by trial and error as we grew.  We quickly set two fixed goals: (1) education of the public about the need for reform of family courts and Guardians ad litem, and (2) legislation to produce change.  We feel that you can’t have legislated change for these dysfunctional systems without an enlightened, aware public that will support and push for change.  Legislation also requires that we  educate legislators about the family court and Guardian ad litem problems, and also that we help voters connect with legislators and- as constituents/voters - express their views and their wishes. Family court systems  are not anything that can be “fixed” quickly, because there are huge systemic problems and powerful internal forces that support  the dysfunction of family courts, and that keep dysfunction alive, well and growing. Long ago, we were instructed by one sophisticated  lawyer: “Follow the money!”

What we are outlining is a well planned systems intervention in a massive system, and it cannot be done quickly or without a well designed strategy and tactics, nor can these be effective without tools for intervention in all parts of the system. Obviously, this is a complex undertaking. We are always glad to share our thoughts and our approach, but to do so would take more than a simple, single blog posting.  We’ll start by giving a brief list of important generic systems intervention “must have”  “tools” that you may find useful in changing family court systems:

1. A blog or two (or more) with different focuses that will serve multiple purposes: give news, present issues and problems, make proposals for change and allow for public "conversations".

2. A Facebook page dedicated to court reform in your state, which can present more short-term "reform news" and sharing.

3. Building a base of credible political supporters, larger numbers of both friends and “victims” of the family court system.  E-mail addresses (and list-servs) for this group are critical, precious, invaluable .  One rule to follow: ALWAYS BLIND COPY (bcc)  MASS MAILINGS FOR PRIVACY).  Telephone numbers and physical addresses are useful also.  We started with our family court story (disaster) in a local weekly paper that got the attention of other family court “victims” who contacted us - and the rest is history as the numbers grew and grew.

4. Once you get stared, a core group of friends with a "work ethic", who can be counted on to help with some of the "heavy lifting".  Volunteer manpower, which can stay on top of what's happening in state government that may impact on users of family courts.

5. Getting to know your State Rep and State Senator and continuously educating them on the court reform issues is critical.  Getting to know other legislators, especially those who have gone through divorce and custody horrors.  “Victims” of family courts in the legislature are “golden”.  You also need to know which legislators are your enemies and “frenemies” , Which legislators will sabotage your efforts and support the ‘status quo’?  HINT: look for legislators who are lawyers!

6. Getting to know your state Governor and your Chief Justice.   Governors can submit bills and can veto bills, but they too need education.  Justices often want changes in the courts but they are constrained by their political base: the state bar and state lawyers who live handsomely off of family courts.  They hear appeals form family courts and their judgments become case law.

7. Building relations with the all elements of the media.  Know reporters, feed them stories.  Many court reporters are intimidated about journalistically challenging the courts and getting “shut out” of court news thereafter, but sometimes your news may tempt them out of timidity.  Small, local, weekly papers, we find, are most open to reporting our experience - and people do read them. Give them stories. This got us going. Don’t forget social media in all of its many forms.

8. Organize intimate, small showings of "Divorce Corp", the DVD, it is very educational, packs a punch and ought to be a "must see" for legislators and government decision makers.  It is a great “tool” for quick information and attitude change.

9. Make your most important goal: public education about the largely unknown scandal that is family courts in America.  Without extensive education of the public you go nowhere.

10. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Keep everyone who writes to support you in the loop, up on the news - good and bad.  Answer ALL e-mails asap.

11. Don't worry about money or setting up a nonprofit.  We've done it with no money and no corporation. Money and non-profits have their own problems and politics. We've done it with PEOPLE, who are FRIENDS. The most successful movement that produced massive political change was created by Vaclav Havel, former, Czech president, Nobel prize winner, writer and political dissident.

Finally, don't be discouraged by setbacks.  It is going to be a long term project. Family courts have solid support of a huge, wealthy industry ($50 billion), the “divorce industry”, these lawyers, like the “robber barons” of old, are not going to yield quickly or easily. But ... we have human and moral "right" on our side, and, once we connect, there are more of US than there are of THEM! Vaclav Havel called it “The power of the powerless”.

In the long run, if we keep at it , like others before us who fought injustice...


MeGALalert can be reached by emailing us at or by finding us on Facebook. There is no magic bullet that can be used to help you with the issues you and your family are facing. We offer support and help in dealing with the family court system.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Alicia Napalan - Money means custody in Family Courts

By Alicia Napalan
West Plains, Missouri

Recently I went through a divorce. I was unable to afford an attorney, while my ex-husband was. I was denied legal aid, twice, due to a lack of funds. My husband was granted full custody of my four year old son. I have one weekend of supervised visitation. I have to pay him $100 per each visitation. As well as $3500 for his attorneys fees in 60 days. All because I was expected to have the same amount of knowledge in representing myself as someone who spent years in law school. I have a job, a car, my own place, I don't do drugs, and my son wasn't abused. Clearly, justice can't be done when one party is represented while the other is not.

In the large amount of time I spent in court, I saw crying mothers over and over, asking the judge what to do, and repeating that they can't afford an attorney. And the judge is only allowed to respond with, "you are expected to know, if you represent yourself. I cannot give you legal advice." The Legal Service Corporation is largely responsible for the funding for state legal aid programs. Even though the budget is 350 million, with supplemental funding from LSC, the total amount of legal aid available for civil cases is still grossly inadequate.

According to LSC's widely released 2005 report "Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans", all legal aid offices nationwide, LSC-funded or not, are together able to meet only about 20 percent of the estimated legal needs of low-income people in the United States.

I lost custody of my child, because I could not do enough research on my own, to stand up against an attorney who had been in practice for years. Hard solid evidence I had was not accepted by the judge because a lack of foundation. 90% of what came out of my mouth was objected to. All on top of the fact that I have social anxiety, and fear of speaking to people and crowds.

I'm requesting that Congress grant more funding for LSC so that more low income families may have a chance at justice. So those extra funds can trickle down to all State Legal Aid programs. It wasn't a piece of furniture I was fighting for. It was my child. And I lost him because I lack funds.

I'm terrified of the emotional Impact It will have on my child being away from me. If I miss my deadline to pay for my visitation, my ex-husband refuses to let me see him. And its getting increasingly harder to make that deadline because he is garnishing my wages for the attorneys fees the judge granted I pay him. I believe with an increase in funding for legal aid services, more families will have a chance at justice, and be spared the same hardships I'm going through.

Alicia Napalan can be found on Facebook. Alicia represents a significant problem that is growing daily. Access to Justice within the Family Court system. The national average of 'Pro se' representation is over 50% with some states over 75% of parents representing themselves (Maine 74%, Connecticut 82% and New York at 85%). This is a two tiered system of justice between the haves (those who are able to afford legal representation) and the have not's (those who are not able to afford representation). MeGALalert is trying to bring about reform to the Family Court system. If you are interested in helping then please contact us at of like us on Facebook.