Sunday, September 6, 2015
Some questions to ask your Guardian ad litem
Our court system has us believe that the role of Guardian ad litem is at least in theory a person who is the eyes and ears of the court offering a neutral and unbiased view of the divorcing family. In practice the person who operates in this role is anything but. The Guardian ad litem’s personal values and agenda clouds the process and as a result this can be a source of conflict with you.
Ask yourself this:
How well do you know this person?
What happens if your values differ from that of this court appointed official?
Our Family Court system markets the belief that in the roll of Guardian ad litem we have a person who we are to believe is an expert in determining – where your child should live, the impact of divorce or domestic violence, visitation, custody, law, psychology and social work to name a few areas. This expertise comes from just a few hours of training with little or no focus. There is no test to determine whether or not this Guardian ad litem understands the material. There is no mentoring program after the Guardian ad litem completes training. To make matters worse - there is no oversight or management of this person in this role. Doctors, lawyers, judges, electricians, plumbers, nurses, oil burner technicians, chiropractors, social workers and dental hygienists have more training and oversight. In addition to the training and oversight we can ask people in these professions questions without the fear of being reprimanded for doing so.
You – as a consumer – need to inform yourself about the person who is being thrust into your life and making decisions which you have no control over. They should be asked before any Guardian ad litem has become a part of your life - chances are the Guardian ad litem is already wreaking havoc in your divorce/ custody. It is not too late.
These questions are being presented in no particular order or grouping. In most cases the answers will have meaning for you and should be used as a tool to help in understanding the Guardian ad litem. In asking any of these questions if the Guardian ad litem refuses to answer or gives a non-answer answer – that is a behavioral message and a clue as to the makeup of the person. The questions and answers should be entered in as evidence or asked in court of the Guardian ad litem. It becomes part of the record.
After going through this list if you can think of questions that may be appropriate to ask we would encourage you to share. A link will be provided to voice those questions.
Presented here are some basic questions (depending on the answer there may be follow up questions):
1 Do you have experience as a law enforcement officer in conducting investigations?
2. What is your actual field of professional expertise?
3. What makes you an expert in determining what is good for other people’s children?
4. What makes you an expert in determining how other people should conduct their lives?
5. What is your child hood family background?
6. What is your own family history as an adult?
7. What is your own marital history as an adult?
8. What is your own relationship history as an adult?
9. Why do you want to be appointed to this case?
10. What do you see your role in this case to be?
11. How do you separate your underlying professional behaviors from your role as Guardian ad litem functions?
12. As a Guardian ad litem going through training were you ever tested on what you learned?
a. YES – What was the score you received?
b. NO – How do we know that you understand the material taught/ discussed?
13. As a Guardian ad litem you are tasked as being neutral and unbiased in conducting your investigation and in making recommendations.
a. How do you maintain neutrality during your investigation?
b. How do you keep your personal bias and agenda out of the cases?
c. Does the judge provide supervision and oversight when you are appointed to a case?
14. As a child did you ever experience issues involving the absence of one or both parents?
a. YES – What was that experience like for you?
b. NO – How can you understand what the issues are?
15. Do you have experience with research in dealing with child custody?
a. YES - What specific research can you sight?
b. NO – If not then please explain how you are able to conduct an investigation?
16. Please describe what was/ is the relationship you had/ have with your Mother?
17. Please describe what was/ is the relationship you had/ have with your Father?
18. Are there any ongoing issues with either?
19. Did you grow up in a divorced home?
20. Do you have siblings?
21. Do you have Grandparents?
22. As a child did you have contact with your extended family?
23. Do you come from a religious home?
a. YES – What is your religion currently?
24. Did/ do you come from a particular ethnic background?
25. We grow up with a belief system. It is a part of what defines us as a person.
a. Has your belief system ever interfered with an investigation?
b. Did/ will your belief system interfere with this case?
c. NO – How do we know?
26. Do you apply your own values in making recommendations to the court?
a. YES – Can you describe what some of your personal values (political, social as example).
i. If my values are different than yours how will that affect your perception of me as a parent?
b. YES – As a neutral observer – why are your values better than either parent?
c. NO – How can we be sure?
d. NO – As a neutral observer – are you saying that your investigation is neutral with regards to the values you have?
i. If so then what test do you use to verify this?
ii. How can we be sure your values will not influence how you view this divorce/ custody?
27. In making your recommendations to this court please explain how you arrived at the following:
a. The visitation schedule?
28. Have you ever been married?
a. YES – How many times?
b. NO – How are you able to understand the dynamics of married life?
29. Have you ever been divorced?
a. YES – How many times?
b. YES – Did you ever go through litigation?
i. YES – Did you have issues with child support?
ii. YES – Did you have issues with the custody agreement(s)?
c. NO – What experience do you draw upon in order to understand what a divorcing family goes through?
30. Do you ever refer cases you are involved in to Child Protective services?
a. YES – What are your criteria for such a referral?
b. YES – Is the claim of child abuse always a criminal claim?
c. YES – Should criminal allegations be removed from Family Court to an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office?
31. Which Judges do you frequently work with?
32. Which lawyers do you work with on cases?
33. How many of your cases have been appealed to a higher court?
34. Have you ever been sanctioned:
a. By a Judge?
b. By a Higher Court?
c. The result of a complaint?
35. How many cases have you been involved with as a Guardian ad litem?36. How do your clients respond to the work you do as a Guardian ad litem?
While these questions should be asked before the Guardian ad litem has been assigned by the judge - quite often it will not be until after you recognize there is a problem with the way this person operates. It is never to late to start asking. Make the questions and answers for the record. If you have any questions which you think may be appropriate we ask that you follow this [LINK] to submit. We will maintain a running list of questions.
MeGAL is working for reform in our Family Court system. This includes the role of Guardian ad litem, Parent Coordinator, Special Master and court evaluators. If you have issues we ask that you contact us at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.