Saturday, December 27, 2014

A flawed complaint process for Guardians ad litem in Family Court.

A “Make-Believe” Complaint Process for Guardians ad litem in Maine Family Courts.

While there is little to no current data to tell us exactly what happens with consumers’ complaints about Maine Guardians ad litem, some have actually received action - in the past. We have talked with people who complained (years ago) and were - hold your breath - successful in getting  “corrective action” using the then existing complaint process. That was back then - before GAL immunity - over ten years ago.

In 2001, a bill, LD 164 HP 153 was submitted, which proposed that anyone serving as a Guardian ad litem and acting as the courts agent would have quasi-judicial immunity "for acts performed within the scope of duties of the Guardian ad litem". This bill in its final disposition was recommended to not pass - and it did not. In 2004, however, Guardians ad litem were given quasi-judicial immunity which did not take effect until 2005.

Since 2005 out of an estimated 150 possible complaints from consumers about their GALs, submitted to Maine’s chief judge - not one - zero complaints ever received  any “corrective action”.

What we have for the past 9 - 10 years is a broken, make-believe, complaint process.  Either it’s “make-believe”, or ... we’d all be forced to say, all Guardians ad litem are perfect and don’t ever need any correction or improvement. How could this be where the emotional toil of divorce is so high and a parents child(ren) is at stake.

It should be noted that any time a consumer of Guardian ad litem services takes the time to give feedback - or to complain - about the services, they are giving, what most organizations would consider, valuable information service. Consumers (parents) are telling our court system that there are apparent flaws in the product and/ or service that is being provided. While the complaints and feedback may not be flattering and may expose flaws within the system, complaints/ feedback would give Maine’s judiciary an insight into their service product flaws and an opportunity to improve the quality.  Or ... to prevent tragic internal abuses, public harm and scandal.

Businesses, such as Wal-Mart, Apple and Amazon want to know what the public’s thoughts are about the service they provide. They understand the cost involved in acquiring and retaining the good will of a customer, and that an upset customer can cause untold damage. In a closed system that operates with no competition, like Maine’s Judicial Branch, the concepts of customer service and customer good will and respect go right out the window.  It is an increasingly out of touch anomaly in a consumer driven society.

What are some of the problems that we see with our current and proposed court complaint process:

1. The use of an inflexible and out dated information system. The data that the Judicial Branch retains is on pieces of paper in boxes at widely scattered district  court houses. In order to access this data, one must go to a particular court house in person and deal with court clerks who are often busy, inefficient and feel put - upon - unless you are a popular lawyer. Further, there are limits as to how many records one may examine on a given visit without a fee. (As an aside please note that customer service is often a foreign concept as there is no reason for giving good customer service. My experience with court clerks is that they do not know the product, are rude to customers - unless as noted above a popular lawyer - and look down upon customers). The current date is not useable and/ or meaningful.

2. Any information that one may glean is fragmented, often hand - written and insufficient. There is no common integrated system to collect and process data. This makes it virtually impossible to properly analyze any outcomes of any complaint.

3. Because there is a lack of transparent data and systemic protocol for data collection about Guardian ad litem complaints, this impairs the ability to do a proper external analysis/review/oversight. What little fragmented data there may be for public review, is all but useless to tease out any meaningful data.

4. The inconsistent handling of complaints. While there is a published complaint process on the Maine Judicial Branch web site, it is more or less a series of descriptive steps, with no examples. With no examples the consumer has to do their best in crafting a complaint. Do I just tell the problem like it is (as the justices on the Supreme Court told us back in November) or should the consumer point out why there is a legitimate complaint by citing law and statutes? It is a guessing game.

You are provided instructions on where to file that complaint. Without how to instructions, some ‘prose’ people write pages and pages of their “story”; others try over and over, like a game of “20 Questions”.  Is this how to do it? How about this? It is a conundrum. There is no clearly defined complaint process and or procedures. No one to help a ‘prose’ or consumer of Judicial services.

Where do the Rules for Maine Guardians ad litem fit?  Are they the gold standard?  Oops ... !  Your case involved “judicial discretion” about the Rules, and the judge (with discretion) threw the Rules out the window! Sorry, complaint dismissed! No Rules, No instructions, No limits on judicial discretion! It all equals no real, functional complaint process!  None.

Functionally, it also means absolutely NO oversight of any kind for GALs.  THEY ARE PERFECT! Bad sports, whiners, complainers, get lost!

Until the Judicial Branch decides to take the complaint process seriously there will be a public user problem. The Guardians ad litem role will be an unsupervised, non-functioning, cruel imposition on the public, who are forced to pay for a product with NO “quality assurance” from Maine’s Judicial Branch whatever.

We, as members of the public, are asking the Maine legislature act so as to move the “oversight” of Guardians ad litem to the Bureau of Professional and Financial Regulation.  This would place complaints under the purview of an organization that is well set up to address public complaints on professions of various kinds and that has a strong “consumer orientation”. The current situation is a travesty.

For more information on what we are doing in court reform please contact us at or find us on Facebook. Our number is: 207-370-9801.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa - They Are All From Kids Who Want BOTH Parents

While the cartoon is meant to make light of the Family Court debacle – there is a huge amount of truth in the message.

In many cases throughout the state and country we have heard stories of parents being ripped away from their children by our courts. These are parents who are solid citizens, who have no background of drug or alcohol abuse. No history of mental illness. They do have a love for their children and fight for them when things appear wrong.

For this they are often punished. Take for instance the case of Dalton v Dalton which went before the Supreme Court of Maine. With this case the lawyer actually represented the client – and fought for Sarah Dalton. The opening brief slammed the Guardian ad litem and the Family Court Judge on the case (it should be noted that the ‘judge’ in question went on to get a promotion back in April. This promotion is not related to this case). The brief sited case law as to why the court was in error. In the end it came down to aggressive lawyering on the part of Sarah’s lawyer as being bad. The complaint on the GAL and ‘judge’ was wiped clean and the mother who was fighting for her children was punished as was the lawyer.

We heard from a mother who earns at the poverty level – pays the GAL bill and pays child support to her ex (who it should be noted allegedly works for a family business and is paid under the table. He has managed to purchase a brand new truck and lives in a house that cost over $350.000.00. The reportedly earns in the neighborhood of $5000.00 - it is amazing that someone in an income this low would be given the credit needed for the house and truck). She went back to court to try and get some relief from the crushing financial burden she has been encumbered with. The 'judge' (who it should be noted is one of the four worse in the state told this mother that because she earns more than the father she is responsible for payment. To add insult to injury the 'judge' took even more time away from the little she has with her kids. It should be noted that the mother is still struggling to make ends meet.

Then there is the father who has fought for his son against all odds. He is up against one of the worst judges in the state (this judge is different than the one mentioned above but is one of four who are the worst in the state). He has no history of mental illness nor does he use or abuse drugs or alcohol (it should be noted though that his ex does). Yet he has had to go through a battery of mental health and parenting tests – his ex has not - at a huge cost to him. He has been stripped financially and is working two jobs to meet the child support requirements - his ex does not work. He is living as close to poverty as one could without actually being in poverty. To add insult to injury he has had his son all but stripped away from his life – to the point where on the few occasions he has had contact with his child – the child cries because he misses his father.

The list – and the pain – goes on. Every parent should have the opportunity to be a part of their child’s life. Every divorce should start off with the idea that the custody is going to be 50/50 and that one or both parent(s) will lose or gain from there. If one side suggest the other needs testing – then both parents should be tested. There should be an equitable balance between the two halves of the divorcing family. It is not a game to be played out with the children as the prize. The only reason why a child should have limited and tempered time with one parent or another if there is cause for that. This should be based not on some ambiguous and ill-defined standard such as “the best interest of the child” standard. But on a standard which can be measured and tested – we like the term “is the child safe”. Is a child safe in the house of a drug addict with mental health issues? Or with a parent who holds down a job and contributes to the family? Is the child safe in an ever changing environment? Or one where a parent has lived for years?

In 2015 we hope that there will be more even-handed division of a child's time of divorcing families between their parents. A child needs the wisdom of both parents and their families. Not to be limited to one. That will only come about if the current family court changes or goes away.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Thank you for following us on Facebook and out blogs. Please feel free to contact us at or call us at 207-370-9801 (ME). We hope you can join us in 2015 to bring about legislative change. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DivorceCorp and MeGALert - Conflicts of Interest Within the Sordid Divorce Industry

Part 2 of the interview between Director Joe Sorge (DivorceCorp) and former psychiatrist and director of Maine Guardian ad Litem Alert, Jerry Collins. Part 2 exposes the conflicts of interest within the sordid Divorce Industry. Find out how the Judiciary in Maine handled the new law (LD 872 - An Act To Improve the Quality of Guardian ad Litem Services for the Children and Families of Maine) which dared to spoil their insider dealings.

DivorceCorp - Family Law Report: Jerry Collins Interview Part2

DivorceCorp - Family Law Report: Jerry Collins Interview Part1

If you would like more information and become involved email us at or find us on Facebook.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Divorce Corp - Backdoor Deals and Cozy Relationships between GALs and Judges

Director Joe Sorge (DivorceCorp) interviews Maine psychiatrist and director of Maine Guardian Ad Litem Alert, Jerry Collins. They discuss the backdoor deals and cozy relationships between the guardian ad litems (GALs) and other family court professionals. Families are forced to pay outrageous fees and often get little for their money.

Learn how Guardians ad litem demand excessive fees and are essentially unregulated in their practice. It is another shocking example of the corrupt practices in US family courts.

DivorceCorp - Family Law Report: Jerry Collins Interview Part1

If you would like more information and become involved email us at or find us on Facebook.


DivorceCorp - Family Law Report: Jerry Collins Interview Part2

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Connecticut - I'm hoping that the four hours I spent in jail - may make a difference

Many thanks Jerry!  This has been a very important week here in this state in the area of family court reform.

In summary:

In 2009, I was forced under the threat of imprisonment to liquidate my sons' college funds to pay a corrupt GAL who did nothing to help my sons. $28,000 was paid to this GAL –  who did next to nothing.

In March of 2012, we had another incident where my ex-wife abused my sons, one of whom has autism - all of it captured on police station surveillance video. I approached the family court with this video and asking them to help me protect my sons - but I did not want my ex-wife to have no contact, because I didn't believe that was needed or that it would be beneficial to my sons.

A new GAL was assigned to my case, and she immediately demanded I seek full physical custody - which I explained to her would not help my sons, especially the one with autism, and was not needed. They needed to see their mother and I had no right to interfere with that relationship – I just wanted her to follow court orders and to be able to make decisions in their actual best interests. Upon hearing this, the GAL cut off all contact with me and ignored me, while continuing to completely ignore ongoing violations of court orders by the ex-wife and as she worked to cover up yet another incident of abuse of my sons.

This GAL billed $26,000 for spending less than three hours with my sons, which neither I nor my ex-wife could afford to pay. I already took out everything I could from my retirement to pay her and my attorneys. I found out recently that my ex-wife was forced to sign over the child support checks I gave her to this GAL - who has no children of her own and has never raised a child. She has never practiced family law. She is not even registered to do business in this state.

Last October, the court issued orders finding that I was right – that my ex abused my sons. And then without a required financial hearing, or any motion before the court asking it make changes, the judge doubled my child support, ordered I pay 2/3 of the GAL’s fees and $7,500 to my ex’s attorney.  In essence, financially rewarding my ex for abusing my sons.

In October, this GAL, without any prior compliant or notice, ran to court and demanded that the court order my ex and I to pay her everything we owed her, immediately. My ex worked out a sweetheart deal, because her attorney is also a GAL and a member of the AFCC. They garnished her wages at $50/week.

For me - the head of our state courts' "Family Commission" targeted me. The now FORMER GAL, who withdrew from our case, filed a Motion for Contempt, hired an attorney to threaten and harass me with jail if I didn’t pay, and issued a subpoena seeking all of my bank statements.

All of this was completely illegal, unconstitutional and without any basis in state law, regulation or the Practice Book. Because the now FORMER GAL, had no standing in my family case to file or do anything.

All of this fell on deaf ears as Judge Bozzuto worked to railroad me to jail as quickly as possible. All of our motions were ignored, the fact that we had two appeals that stayed everything, was ignored. Due process and the proper scheduling and hearing of motions, was ignored.

On November 21st, without me being present as I had to care for my sons, Judge Bozzuto walked into a hearing with orders already in hand. She came into the courtroom with hanging orders - she talked for SIX PAGES of the transcript without either counsel saying a word or having an opportunity to be heard. She made up “facts” and made comments about me that had no basis in any evidence before the court. She focused only on what I was bringing home and now the draconian costs the court imposed on me – which made it mathematically impossible to pay what was ordered and to care for my sons.

She issued a capias against me with a $9,600 purge, which no attorney who saw it could believe or ever saw before. I spent a night in a hotel room to avoid a marshal and being arrested and taken away in front of my sons and family.

After hiring a new attorney, we negotiated with the marshals to have me turn myself in this past Wednesday morning, and with a 60 Minutes camera crew filing the event. This so my sons would not be impacted, as on Wednesdays they go back to my mother.  Prior to this, we lived in constant fear that a marshal would knock on the door and take me away - leaving no one to be able to care for my sons, especially my son with autism.

On Wednesday morning, I was handcuffed and put in leg shackles. I was paraded into court in front of Judge Bozzuto, whose first words were her surprise and amazement that after two weeks I couldn't come up with the $9,600 purge amount.

My attorney fired back, and informed her that she had no legal standing or authority to have me incarcerated. As an expert in appeals, her forcefully cited state law and the Practice Book - illustrating that as we had two pending appeals, everything at the trial court level was automatically stayed, and what she did in allowing the contempt hearings to continue, was illegal.

After some very tense moments where she threatened the attorney, she said she wanted to review the case and continued it for the next day. She ordered me released - but there was even a moment where she left it unclear as to whether I was still incarcerated or not.

The next day, in front of news media, with 60 Minutes sitting in the courtroom, and many supportive parents and court watchers, she backed down. She agreed to wait until the Appeal's ruled on the appeals and "temporarily vacated" the capias against me.


What is before the Appeal's Court, for the very first time, is the question of whether the GAL's fees are attorney's fees or "in the nature of child support." If they are attorney's fees, I win and the GAL will have no option other than to go across the street and pursue her fees in civil court - where this belongs. If this is ruled as support payments, then I lose, and the question becomes why aren't the GALs payments added as part of the child support guidelines worksheet?

We also filed a federal lawsuit against the judge, the GAL and her attorney - citing violations of my Constitutional rights and state and federal debt collection laws.

I'm hoping that the four hours I spent in jail - may make a difference.

Peter Szymonik

Glastonbury, CT

The Court Documents relating to Peter Szymonik's case:

2013 -
2013-08-17 Invoice for Professional Services Rhonda Morra

2014 -
2014 Payment History of Rhonda Morra Guardian ad litem Bill
2014-10-17 Fax from Teller of Contempt
2014-11-14 Invoice for Professional Services Rhonda Morra
2014-11-21 Judge E Bozzuto Orders

Maine Guardian ad litem Alert (MeGALert) supports Peter in what he is trying to accomplish in Connecticut. Peter has been in the forefront of Family Court reform in that state. If you have been threatened by your Guardian ad litem we encourage you to contact us at of find us on Facebook.

Phone 207-370-9801 (open 24/7)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Have you Suffered at the Whim of Judicial Discretion?

“Judging requires adherence to the constitution or statutory provision at hand.” Justice ElenaKagan, to Senate Judiciary Committee, 2010

The above quote from Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, says it all. Judges need to follow the law, like anyone else. Or... we would add, the law is in danger of becoming meaningless, with confusion and chaos reigning in the court room and “users” of the courts having no “true North” to follow. In its most favorable interpretation, judicial discretion may be considered an aspect of judicial independence, fitting a law to the actual situation at hand, but where there are clear constraints set down, they should be followed, or the court may be abusing its discretion and undermining the rule of law. Some law scholars claim that the absence of a jury in family courts, and therefore, absent a source of  “oversight” of judges  -  may enable an abuse of judicial discretion. “Judicial discretion”, when applied to the Maine Rules for Guardians ad litem, leads to confusion for users of these courts and huge bad feeling.  Do Rules for Guardians ad litem mean anything or not?  Does Judicial Discretion, when randomly ignoring or mis-applying Rules for Guardians ad litem, benefit anyone?  Does it not undermine confidence in the process and lead to suspicions of judicial corruption?

By reports “from the front”, we hear that many judges appear to have only a general knowledge of the Rules for Guardians ad litem.  Many Guardians ad litem, likewise, seem to have limited knowledge of their Rules.  But the users of Guardians ad litem services depend on these Rules for help in understanding the boundaries of permissible Guardians ad litem functioning in their case. It commonly happens that ‘Prose’ (and other) users of a Guardian ad litem's services know the Rules for Guardians ad litem better than the “Officers of the Court”!  But... to what end, if these officers, using “discretion”, throw Rules to the wind and run things on raw power? It is “because we are the mommie!” thinking.

The recent precedent-setting case, Dalton v. Dalton, raises troubling questions about the use of judicial discretion in family courts and how/whether the current Rules for Guardians ad litem are just words on paper? Or - whether - Rules be damned - Guardian ad litem activities may be any old thing - defended by ‘ad lib’ reasons. In effect, this places a Guardian ad litem's actions at the whim or caprice of the judge. To lay persons watching this performance, it suggests that the judge has historical powers - in an extreme form - of an absolute monarch. He may authorize a Guardian ad litem to do whatever he/she wants. Even more ominous in the Dalton case is the danger faced by the attorney who challenges this extremely broad Judicial Discretion. There is the risks of being in contempt of court. Truly, l’etat c’est moi! With unlimited discretion, a lawyer is reduced to the role of polite courtier or court flunky in this situation. A robust defense of a client is dangerous. A challenge of this “abused discretion” may result in serious sanctions (reprimand or loss of license).

A lawless Guardian who orders a mother out of her own home is acting with NO visible “Rule for Guardians ad litem” to back her. A Guardian who orders professionally unrecognized, “junk treatment”, scream therapy for a child has NO Rule to back her. These actions and others strike members of the public as being outrageous and way outside of the Rules for Guardians ad litem. Some would say that it is frank bullying, a gross abuse of power- and feel it is outside of the rule of law! But these actions (and more) were supported by the judge in the Dalton case. And... they - the Guardian ad litem and the Judge - were supported by the Maine Supreme Court in an appeal. The lawyer making the appeal was sternly condemned in the appeal decision. And faces possible sanctions from the Ba

Is the Court saying: A Guardian ad litem can do anything? Guardians ad litem are not required to follow their Rules? The Rules are just suggestions with absolutely no consequences whether they are followed or not? Is the court saying: the judge is an absolute monarch in his/her courtroom? Judicial discretion is the absolute, actual Rule?

It also appears that they are saying, “Woe betide any lawyer who dares to challenge this brand of judicial discretion in a family court?  Judicial Discretion as a ‘de facto’, idiosyncratic super Rules for Guardians ad litem” would appear to take precedence over any published Rules for Guardians ad litem on the Judicial Branch web site. One has to ask, what then are the Rules for? Are they a sort of bureaucratic “window dressing” for the benefit of the Legislature and the Executive Branches?

One also has to ask, is this sort of apparently, ‘ad lib’ rule-making by a judge in the best interest of families who use our courts, lawyers who work in them and for the well-being of Maine citizens, who want to trust and believe in  our courts!

We need a law that tells judges that if there are Rules for Guardians ad litem they cannot be dispensed with on the basis of “discretion”. They must be followed! Judges need to give a leadership example of respect for the written constraints set down.

Please contact us at if you have experienced Judicial Discretion. Or like us/ find us on Facebook for up to date information.