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Friday, February 24, 2012

THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM

Early in my high conflict divorce, my attorney agreed to appoint a guardian ad litem in my case. What a mistake!





Before I go into more detail, let me tell you what a guardian ad litem is.  A guardian ad litem is an attorney or mental health professional put into place to represent the best interests of your children.  In a high conflict divorce where custody is under dispute, they will do an investigation and make a recommendation regarding which parent should be the residential parent or sole custodian of the child.  Most of the time, these folks are attorneys, but sometimes they are mental health professionals.  





The guardian ad litem was my worst nightmare.  In fact, when I look back, this person caused the most harm and damage during my divorce not only to me, but also to my children.  I had my ex urinating on my furniture and putting nails in my tires, but when I brought up the issue of abuse with the guardian ad litem, s/he dismissed it with a wave of the hand, "They always claim they are being abused." s/he said.  Not only did that hurt emotionally because s/he invalidated the injuries I was experiencing on a daily basis, but also s/he pretty much gave my ex permission to escalate his abuse, which he promptly did.

I would say, not only was there the emotional and physical harm and damage that the guardian ad litem caused, but also s/he is literally responsible for costing me thousands and thousands of wasted dollars.  





For example, s/he was a mental health professional rather than an attorney.  S/he was always talking--talk, talk, talk and asking probing questions so there would be more talk, talk, talk, and then s/he charged me untold sums of money per hour  for all the talk, talk, talk.  You know, I am not a fan of attorneys.  But what is worse than an attorney is a mental health professional desperately trying, but miserably failing, to do what attorneys are actually trained to do.  





So, what is it that guardians ad litem are statutorily required to do?  According to the Connecticut Practice Book Sec. 25-62 "The judicial authority may appoint a guardian ad litem for a minor involved in any family matter.  Unless the judicial authority orders that another person be appointed as guardian, a family relations counselor shall be designated as a guardian ad litem.  The guardian ad litem is not required to be an attorney."  





Guardians ad Litem are currently required to take a training course on how to be a guardian ad litem.  This training course involves a 30 hour, six session course which teaches guardians ad litem how to develop the skills they need for the job (i.e. how to torture their clients with even more grace and sophistication than they ever did before!).  





Thus the Connecticut Practice book Sec. 25-62 continues on to say "With the exception of family relations counselors, no person may be appointed as guardian ad litem until he or she has completed the comprehensive training program for all family division guardians ad litem sponsored by the Judicial branch."  





The training program was developed in the past few years and only recently became mandatory.  It was developed under the leadership of the Chief Administrative Judge For Family Matters--Judge Lynda Munroe.  The intention behind this program is to make a lot of money--oops, I mean to establish a uniform and consistent level of training for all Guardians Ad Litem.  At this point, the class is free and the instructors who teach the class work for free.  





This section of the Practice Book finishes by stating, "The judicial authority may order compensation for services rendered by a court appointed guardian ad litem."  And this is the most crucial point.  





Apparently, when a family is indigent, the best information I have indicates that the guardian ad litem will receive a $350 flat fee for the services he or she provides to the family, plus a nominal fee per hour beyond 30 hours.  





However, guess what, if you are anything beyond indigent, you'll be paying top dollars--anything from $250/hour or more for your guardian ad litem.  In fact, Sec. 25-62 pretty much authorizes the judge, ah hemm, judicial authority to wipe out all your bank accounts for the purpose of paying the guardian ad litem.  





Not only that, the judge, ah hemm, judicial authority can wipe out your children's bank accounts paying for the guardian d Litem.  I mean every last dime, all the college funds, all the UTMA accounts, eeevveerrryythhinngg.  Yes.  See CT Statute Sec. 46b-129(a).  And this is supposed to be in the best interests of the children--go figure!





Currently, there are around 700 trained guardians ad litem in the State of Connecticut and rising.  And, as you know, the more GALs there are available, the more litigants will be pressured to utilize their services!  Mark my words!





A guardian ad litem is supposed to represent the best interests of the child as opposed to an attorney for the minor child who is supposed to represent the child's wishes (see Connecticut Practice Book Sec. 25-62a).  AMCs usually represent older children who are more able to know what they want.





I can tell you now, out of all the people involved in your high conflict divorce, the person who will likely make the most exorbitant amount of money is the guardian ad litem, hands down.  





What always bothered me about the concept of the guardian ad litem is the idea that they have the right to interfere in the parenting of my child.  As one expert put it, "a Guardian Ad Litem is appointed in situations in which the parent is presumed incapable of preserving the child's best interests.  It is not the child's disability under the law which has resulted in the need for a guardian ad litem, but rather the disability of the child's parent.  The guardian ad litem is therefore acting on behalf of the parent in pursuing the best interests of the child, it is argued, and becomes a parent surrogate with limited duties."





"Parent surrogate"!  Excuse me?  As parent, I am supposed to be disabled?  Give me a break!  My right to parent is a sacred constitutional right.  And you are going to interfere with that simply because I filed for divorce and my ex is a jerk and making it difficult for me?  





Did any of you have the problem where your kids would defy discipline and threaten to report you to the guardian ad litem when you tried to correct their behavior?  Raise your hands, ladies; I know you are out there!  





I've had relatives ask me why I'm not more strict with my children, how come I don't demand they do their chores as faithfully as they think I ought to.  And I tell them why--not with this divorce hanging around my neck, because all the kids have to do is report me.  All the time as I am doing the job of parenting, I'm tiptoeing around that big elephant in the room, that the guardian ad litem is hanging around in the wings waiting or in actuality acting in such a way as to undermine my authority.  





The other big issue that came up with my kids and the guardian ad litem, specifically when the GAL was doing her investigation, had to do with coaching the children to make false statements to the custody evaluator.  Twice I caught the guardian ad litem coaching my children to make false statements.  Luckily, the custody evaluator asked questions from more than one angle and was able to tease out the inconsistencies that arise when children are being coached, but if it weren't for that, I would have been seriously compromised.  





So when the guardian ad litem takes your kids off for questioning, make sure you follow up with the kids to find out what was said and also follow up with requests for a summary of the contents of the meeting, something to protect yourself. 

Once the guardian ad litem's investigation is over, always ask him for a full report.  A report you can counter in a deposition or with testimony from other sources.  But conclusions drawn behind your back, conversations behind closed doors--you can't do anything with that.  Trust me!  Guardian ad litems will do anything to avoid providing such a report, but you must insist on one.  Otherwise, there is absolutely no accountability and you can end up being a victim--aGAIN! 





The official line regarding guardians ad litem is that they are only one source of information in regard to custody in a divorce and the judge is supposed to consider a number of different factors.  However, the bottom line that everyone knows, and I mean everyone, is that if the Guardian Ad Litem makes a decision regarding custody, that is the decision the Trial Court will go with 99.999999% of the time. 





So don't be fooled.  If you are smart, I'd avoid having a guardian ad litem in the first place, but if you are stuck with one, you'd better hope you are that guardian ad litem's best friend, or else you and your children are in big, big, and I mean BIG trouble.

89 comments:

  1. Agree. Avoid crooked and greedy GAL's at all cost. To make sure my GAL gets paid, she had me sign an agreement that the court will order a QDRO that I pay my spouse from my 401K and in turn my spouse pays the GAL. I do not think QDRO's were intended to pay GAL's. Very crooked system. Thankfully my kids have never threatened me to tell the GAL but they have threatened to tell my spouse and my spouse's lawyer has distorted many a statement I have made. I complained in writing to the GAL that I think it is inappropriate that my spouse intimidate an innocent child to talk badly about her parent. The GAL sent me an email agreeing with my statements but continues to allow it when the GAL feels threatened by actions I have taken. What disgusting, duplicitous behavior they will engage in to cover up their negligence. I can go on but will add more later. But will add, if the GAL threatens you with DCF, ignore the threat (if you have nothing to hide which is my case). I told the GAL on a number of times that I would welcome a DCF investigation of actions that my spouse has taken to hurt the children so the GAL finally no longer threatens me with DCF. However, when I complained to DCF, she intervened and put the investigation to an end. I contacted everyone at DCF even the ombudsmand and I can't even get confirmation of my report to them. Very scary.

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  2. The GAL isn't a Judge here. They are only there to put themselves in the child's shoes so they can have a voice in court. It is a flawed system but there is another side. Financially you may have suffered a set back but if it was for the betterment of the child then in my opinion it was worth the cost. I agree that the cost is extremely high and think that no one should be able to charge over $250 an hour for their "professional" opinion. It should be a designated persons that have passed stringent training and possibly have a law degree and a child Psyche degree of some sort. When parents don't agree then some one needs to be able to step in for the child and mediate. As far as the couch, tires, and DCF, it seems that your problems are much worse and maybe your attorney should get involved.

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    1. I have been told by highly experienced attorneys that whatever the GAL says goes. Now, I know that is not always the case now that I've investigated the situation further. Still, GALs wield considerable power and you would be foolish to underestimate that. My experience is that the GAL speaks for him or herself but does not speak on behalf of my children. In fact, my children's GAL went out of the way to silence my daughter when she even wrote a letter to the court stating what she wanted. The GAL tried to hide the letter. You think it worth the cost? How do you think my daughter is going to do in life without a college education because the GAL used up all the money? You got a plan for that? And is there any evidence out there other than warm, fuzzy hope that the presence of the GAL does anything more than stir a pot that already has too many cooks in it? You seem woefully unaware of the corruption in family court and unaware of the fact that attorneys and custody evaluators regularly endorse the bullying and harassment of abused women during high conflict divorces. I sent detailed memoranda to all the professionals in my divorce describing the the abuse and no one raised a hand to stop it. They said I was "oversensitive." You seem to be in the field. I would suggest you get back to me when you have been out their longer, say in five years. You'll be singing a different tune.

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    2. Although I would like to agree with you that a GAL is not a judge – Judges often outsource their work to GALs. A GAL is supposed to be neutral in doing the work the court hires them to do. The are supposed to investigate and then recommend. They have no training to make diagnosis, or determine whether or not a parent needs to have anger management training. Yet they do and will use the courts to force their will on uncooperative parents. In many states they have immunity with little or no oversight or management. In many states if you file a complaint against them you are doing so through his/ her boss – the Judge.

      GALs often polarize a highly charged situation. One parent benefits the other does not. One benefits the other does not. Attorneys are often reluctant to get involved in challenging GALs because they work with them and future cases will hang on how things go currently. If you feel that what Cathy is stating is a little over the top then do two web searches. 1. Find a report anywhere that shows the positive influence GALs have on a divorce. 2. Do a search on Guardian ad litem problem – and see how many posts and or reports there are out there.

      In Maine there is a huge problem with the GAL program that is recognized by the consumer, Judiciary, GALs and the divorce industry. Three out of the four mentioned feel a minor tweaking would solve the problems. The fourth doesn't quite see it that way.

      http://megalalert.blogspot.com/

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    3. Dr Elizabeth Bergen was/is our GAL. My ex husband and I have spent 50k each on her "services". We assumed her background was in child psychology or behavioral science ... so when I learned that she's a Doctor (PhD) of Anthropology and that her credentials are in no way aligned with her position, I was blown away. She consistently made mistakes on our case, showed bias and once she learned the financial well had run dry, she disappeared. TO ANYONE READING THIS: PLEASE!! I BEG OF YOU TO AVOID ALLOWING THIS WOMAN TO COME NEAR YOUR CHILD(REN). DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE CONTRACTING A GAL AS IT CAN COST YOU AND YOUR FAMILY DEARLY!!!

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  3. I understood that the GAL was supposed to watch out for the interests of the child . I believed that they would some how see through the lies of my partner . I was wrong my partner got an endless amount of time with them and has caused the children to suffer mentally and physically the funny thing is my partner was this screwed throughout the whole divorce and yet in the GAL it is better for them to have contact ? really what would they learn

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  4. I guess you had a rude awakening! My experience is that the trial court will do nothing to protect the children at all no matter how emotionally and physically abused your ex is to them. When I questioned this, I was told I was lucky my children weren't drinking lye, which was apparently happening in a case a few doors down. So, the message to me was, your children have to be on the verge of death before we will do anything to help them. Really. The GAL system is a sick, disgusting travesty, in my view.

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  5. I'm a GAL, and I went through the training, and I represent children, and I tell the courts what I see is the best interest for the children. To set the record straight, there are honest good people (and GALs) in the world.

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    1. If you are so honest why don't you use your name anonymous? None of you are honest good people. You just know how to make great money and do nothing in return. Also you know you can't be fired no matter how poorly you do your job because your minor children clients can't fire you. Children need to be protected from you nameless snakes. You are worthless individuals.

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    2. You understand, anonymous, that the "training" is carried out by some of the most criminal members of the mental health professions here in CT as well as the most egregious offenders when it comes to attorneys.

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    3. GALS are volunteers so you cant be mad at what the state charges for them- that's ridiculous. AND you dont have to be a mental health person or an attorney to be a GAL \

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    4. The vast majority of GALs are not volunteers and they are making masses and masses of money of unwitting litigants. It is one of the most effective and widespread scams and extortion schemes run by the CT Judicial System.

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    5. This story is 100% true. The GALs of Connecticut are bilking people of their money and, if you can't pay, they are trying to incarcerate you. I know from personal and recent experience. The GALs do not care for children or families they care for extending the conflict so they can continue to charge $300 an hour classified as child support not attorneys fees. You should publish anonymously to avoid being punished by a GAL.

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    6. I'm in this boat right now! A GAL was appointed to my case because there was a loop hole where my abusive ex could undergo a psych eval and submit it to the court that he was no longer that abusive! If you know anything about domestic abusers, they don't change! So I had a court order with sole custody, no visitation, and a protective order for myself and the kids. Now I have an open case, a hearing date, and I will meet with a GAL on Friday. Are the GALs accountable if they change custody and give my abusive ex rights to the children and something 'heaven forbid' happens? I mean, can they really put my children's lives at risk with no consequences? What are my rights? What are my children's rights? They are scared for their lives!!!

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    7. GALs don't actually change custody, judges do, but the GAL's recommendation plays a major role. There are so many factors that would have to be considered in responding to your post here, I couldn't even begin to respond. But do courts make stupid decisions? Yes, they do. I would recommend that if your ex is supposed to do a psych eval, he should also do the H.A.R.E. inventory to identify psychopaths. If your ex has gone to any programs to correct his behavior, he will be considered a father who can be reformed, even though we know is all that happened is he got smarter about how to abuse. Just look at such nonsense programs as David Mandel's "Safe and Together". Your ex can play so many games. You are going to need some very good advisors to make it through this situation.

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    8. He did do the psych eval and submitted it to the court. Should I recommend the HARE inventory? I do not understand how he could have passed any test but like you said, he could have just gotten smarter and said the 'right' things. I have an advocate with the local DV shelter coming with me to see the GAL appointed this Friday. I have my children's diagnosis of PTSD and treatment, I have police records, and I have the transcripts from court. I just want to be prepared.

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    9. Are you sure he did pass the psych eval? Did you get a copy? How smart is the advocate from the local DV Center? Is this GAL a private appointee or someone from family relations? Email me at: Slopercathy@gmail.com!

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    10. GAL what a joke. I had one appointed and she took my kid based only on deliberate alienation and now they are doing the same thing but this is ok.

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    11. I have a question for you...My boyfriend got a divorce and his ex has family in the court system. She made up things about me to the GAL, but I was never interviewed nor did she come look at our house. She put my name in their divorce saying I could not be around the children. How is this possible if I was not their to even say anything. I am a nurse and I have full sole custody of all my children. How can they do this? Is this legal? Can I take legal action to get my name removed from their divorce decree?

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    12. I am not an attorney and so I cannot provide legal advice, but it seems to me that it is worth checking with an attorney to see what relief there might be for you in this situation. Just more of the kind of nonsense that goes on in family court, and more of the kind of nonsense that GALs get up to. I am sorry about this situation.

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  6. Well, ANONYMOUS, I am sorry, but I don't believe you. My therapist at the time I was going through my divorce told me she didn't know any good ones, and she is well connected in the State of Connecticut. For everyone who has suffered in the hands of GALs, I want to say, if you believe what you have written you must be delusional, if you know what a liar you are, then you are corrupt. By the way, have you read my blog on "The Kids Are Not All Right" about how the GALs and trial courts ignore childrens' special needs. They are still ignoring my children's special needs and I've had two highly trained, highly qualified GALs. Training or not, qualifications or not, experienced or not, the only thing GALs care about is cash on the line, while the childrens' needs remain unaddressed.

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    1. Your seeing a therapist.....your alreaddy screwed up. You don't have any credibility!

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    2. I think that is very saddening that you look upon a person who is in therapy as "already screwed" up and as not having "any credibility" Unfortunately, the stigma against people who obtain help is very great. This is reflected in the attitude of GALs who look upon mothers who have been in therapy as if they must be inadequate in their parenting. Instead of recognizing that the people who seek to improve themselves through counseling, who are ready to take good advice, are actually the ones who have common sense and good judgment. It is the ones who refuse to hear anyone elses opinion but their own whom you need to be concerned about. The discrimination GALs perpetrate against psychiatric survivors and consumer/survivors is truly one of the greatest crimes of our times, and I believe it represents the last of the great civil rights wars. Ignorance and bigotry will, one day, be removed from the common discourse.

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    3. To anon: seeing and therapist and getting support is crucial... if you don't have a therapist or a mental health diagnosis, you will probably wind up with one sometime during the process of losing your kids. Anon, I get the feeling you are a GAL

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  7. ANONYMOUS, you should be ashamed to come on this website and lie. Who do you think you are speaking to. I'm not an idiot and neither anyone else who reads this website.

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  8. I have just been observing other court proceedings, and one thing I consider very problematic is when a GAL presumes to report on the stand what a child said to him or her. That is outright hearsay, and yet a parent in a trial cannot bring the child to court to testify as to what the child did or did not say because judges generally will not allow it. This seems patently unfair and unjust.

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  9. I have worked in the legal industry for well over 20 years and know the system and many divorce attorneys and judges quite well.

    The reality is that the GAL system in this state is horribly broken and designed to promote corruption.

    It costs already suffering children and families and offers next to nothing in terms of a benefit. Many disgusted divorce attorneys themselves have told me that the only purpose of a GAL to offer insurance against a judge for making a decision that might harm a child - because then they can blame the GAL.

    This system MUST be reformed by the State Judiciary Committee. That means placing an independent oversight and watchdog committee over GALs. because currently GALs are responsible to no one and not held accountable for not performing their duties by anyone on any level.

    I am working on a web site www.ct-galreform.com, and have started a Facebook page for this effort as well - CT-GALREFORM.

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  10. To cite my own personal experiences with a GAL (and you can't make this stuff up....)

    The original GAL assigned to our case billed over $22,000 while meeting with my children once for all of 15 minutes over three years. He couldn't tell you their names. He forced me to withdraw $6,000 from my sons college funds - the last liquid asset I had available to me as I suffered from years of unemployment - to pay his fees. Yet he never once submitted an itemized bill explaining what he was billing for. The judge ordered he be paid from my son's college funds under threat of imprisoning me - which would make it all but impossible for me to gain any meaningful employment in my field. The judge stated that "the state will always protect the minor child, and that means protecting the GAL." Really? Protecting a GAL who drives a $75,000 Lexus and makes over $250K/year by handing him my kids college money is protecting them?

    Our second GAL was assigned to our case when my ex literally dragged my seven year old son to a police station and had him arrested in order to punish him for misbehaving in a restuarant. The trauma he suffered was substantial and he is in therapy to this date. This GAL, knowing this and viewing the police video showing this abuse - recommended to the judge that my sons be transitioned by my ex at the same police station. Ponder this for a long minute.

    Again - this system needs immediate and complete overhaul.

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  11. Peter, once you get the website up and running, let me know and I'll set up a link to it on my blog. I sympathize with all that you have gone through and I know that the work you plan on doing will be so useful to people in this state and I commend you for starting this work. You might also wish to connect with another website www.corruptct.com. Best Of Luck! And keep in touch.

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  12. Catharine. I agree that GAL's are a significant problem and a detriment to children. However the belief that you can't do anything about it isn't always true. I would bring your attention to a case currently proceeding in the Litchfield court. The GAL of a horribly abused child was aware of the maltreatment and did nothing about it. As you say, the disregard of the GAL for the boy's condition effectively condoned and intensified the behavior of an abusive mother.

    You and others on this site are well aware of the immunity GAL's enjoy under CT Statute. So while the boy's father was unable to prosecute the GAL directly he simply didn't pay the GAL's fees and waited for the GAL to try and collect them. The father then used his defense against collection as a way to introduce the evidence against the corrupt GAL.

    The GAL eventually sued the dad in small claims court where the boy's father presented the evidence of the abuse and the GAL's negligence. The GAL then withdrew the small claims action but then foolishly filed a contempt motion in family court where the boy's father will again present the evidence of the abuse and the GAL's disregard of it. Let's see if the court awards his fees. As I said the case is pending but at the very least the corruption of this GAL will be exposed and on the record and a clear message will be sent to other larcenous GAL's that if they don't do their jobs, they are risk of exposure before the court and their peers. More importantly though, if enough of these cases come forward, legislative action will follow!

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  13. Thanks so much for this information. I agree that if more people take action against GALs, this will hold them to account. Challenging the GAL fees seems to be a good courwe of action. It is uplifting to hear stories of some success in responding to GAL corruption.

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    1. I think children who are no longer minors should be allowed to file suit against GAL's for the abuse they suffered. Any abuse by anyone to a child should be punished not protected.

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    2. I agree absolutely. Something must be done to hold GALS and AMCS accountable.

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    3. I agree. Im no longer a minor but was during my time with a GAL. She was a horrible human with no experience in handling DV cases. She also is a blackmailing b**ch. I wish they werent immune to the law.

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  14. Well Ms. Sloper:

    The outcome remains to be seen but I do not expect the dad to be successful in challenging the GAL's collection of fees. The court has protected them vitually without exception. That said he will at least have opportunity to expose the "quality" of the G.A.L's work in a public forum. GAL's in Connecticut are too protected as are family court judges. We need to involve the legislative judiciary committes to draft legislation to review and correct the problem. I actuall think the corruption in the family court system goes a lot further than the GAL. Would you agree?

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  15. Ok, I do not want to presume, so I held myself back when I commented on the above Dad. But you are absoluitely right. It is my guess that no matter what wrongdoing the GAL committed in the case, the Judge will order him to pay the fees. Family Court, to my knowledge, doesn't give a damn about GAL wrongdoing or GAL accountability even up to the point of absurdity. My GAL charged me for a report which s/he never produced either for me, the opposing side, or the trial court. When s/he sued for fees, I said, don't I at least have a right to see the report that s/he is charging me for, and the Family Court judge said no I did not have that right. So as outrageous as it is, GALs can charge what they please, defraud and exploit the litigants involved in the case and blatently getr away with it. Yes, you are correct. The corruption of Family Court is broad and extensive. I hear you on all that you are saying. But if a litigant wants to give it a go and try to fight it, I am all for it, and whatever I can do to help, I will do. I will say that Judge Munro is in charged of the training of GALs and she would be the person to direct concerns to as well. She ought to know about the kinds of corrupt and evil doing professionals she has been producing.

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  16. Peter doesn't like the GAL system for good reason. It is, indeed, criminal and corrupt and needs to be destroyed. However, Peter is also not telling the truth about his case. Peter?

    Let's get real here Cathy.

    keith harmon snow

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  17. Ok, I see that the Peter up there is a specific Peter. Well, Peter, is there something you need to clarify about your story, because apparently Keith has additional information about your case.

    I do want to say that I am very clear that I am a Protective Mother and I support the interests of Protective Mothers. This is my intention. On the other hand, I do not restrict who views the ideas on this website and I do not insist that everyone agree with me when they make comments. I will remove anything that threatens me or anyone else, or any comment which uses foul language. Otherwise, I stand by the free flow of ideas. I assume folks learn from my website, but also I am learning from the websites of others and recommend that interested parties take advantage of the freedom of the internet to collect all the possible ideas they can find, both for and against their own ideas.

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  18. I would also say that I stand by Christian principles of loving your neighbor as yourself. What did Jesus say, do good to people who cause you harm. I would ask you, Peter, as I would ask all people in a high conflict divorce, are you doing all you can to show love to your ex? When it comes to the children, are you putting their best interests first, recognizing that harming, in any way, the mother of these children will cause those children direct harm as well. You cannot say you love your children and not love the mother of the children in the sense of acting in a loving and caring manner. Attorneys and GALs are quick to convince you that you cannot have any common ground with your ex because they want to make money. Trust me, if you continue to work along the lines of not getting along with your ex, and not supporting your ex in her parenting, you will pay through the nose in dollars and cents.

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  19. My ex repeatedly threatened to kill the children, me, and my parents. In fact, he attempted to kill my father and was beating and strangling him in front of the children and continued to do so after my father consciousness and appeared to be dead and screaming that he would kill him. There was an audio recording of this on the 911 tape. The GAL said this was an "unfortunate incident" and the children's telling their therapist about the murder threats was "irrelevant". In a later incident, while an arrest warrant was being prepared against the father, the GAL, not having seen the children, demanded additional, unsupervised visitation with the man who told them he was going to cut them into little pieces.
    The GAL was involved with the children for many years and charged many tens of thousands of dollars. The damage he did to the children is immeasurable. My son is in his 20;s; his father died years ago; yet he still sleeps with the lights on and his bedroom door barricaded - something he did as a small child so daddy wouldn't come in and kill him.

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    1. This is absolutely shameful. And very typical, unfortunately. I am so sorry for your situation and your children's pain and suffering.

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    2. Thank you for replying. I am an attorney but couldn't protect my own children from the GAL and the courts. Since I last wrote, I took the AMC/GAL training course. We had many question and answer sessions. Some of the most notable questions were not "How do we protect the children"? Rather, prospective GAL's wanted to know "How do we get cases?" "How much can we charge?" and "How do we get paid?"

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  20. Oh heck..you all want to hear my story...
    My ex abused me and our son, had 18 yr old pornography, was dating while still being married, financially depressed me, hit me in front of our kids and ran to avoid cops, involved kids in divorce and I have tapes of his conversations..thanks to hidden baby monitor, and that GAL who was never hired by me or the court, was hired by my ex to turn tables on me and not protect our kids as she was supposedly hired for. Funny how she got my TPO removed, me out of house and gave him everything and almost my kids if I did not accept a crap financial settlement. I was told if I wanted 50 50 custody I would not get either of our 2 houses, 4 cars, no furniture, no appliances, no money in joint accounts, no alimony after a 27 year marriage, and not in charge of their education or medical anymore....lost my job before the final decree, lied to about his income, lost my job 2 weeks after the mediation, and still paying into child support as if I make 48,000 when I make 0 and living in poverty as my parents support me and our kids as he has his 22 yr old girlfriend and hide assets and accounts, and makes over 250,000 a year..and the Guardian gets up in front of court as I am begging for relief for me and my kids on my time, and she says ' your honor, the kids are thriving and doing just fine..." Mind you, this witch with a b, never sought to get me temp child support for 2 years, told me she disapproved of me not paying her bills, never talked to our kids but 3 times, asked all questions about mom and not dad..knowing full well I was on depression meds from my ex cheating on me and beating me...she then sees me in ladies room at court house to get another TPO in place and him arrested for abuse and she steps in and calls for an emergency hearing to try and take kids from me just because she did not believe me or care to ask me what happened...tells ex to run and take my kids..and has the court order me to take a psychiatric eval instead of him...then tells the doctor to change it to a full blown custody eval without telling me, taints exam with defammating info from my ex and his lawyer, and then uses this against me in a parenting mediation that she refused to allow me to even be present in to defend false allegations against me......Fair? Legal? Criminal? No wait..there is more..then if it was not enough to make me forced out of the house, she lets only him back in house...he takes all my clothes, furniture etc and sells and destroys them....and then knows I lost my job just before Final Decree which affects child support and says nothing...so my ex pays less into support and I get screwed financially.....as well as using money to alienate me from our kids.....No..GALS ARE PURE EVIL and Yes, the courts don't give a damn about the kids..just who gets payed...and the GALs are allowed to make a bad situation worse....They know it and this is a form of Judicial child abuse..They should all be held accountable...and she will pay. Maybe she better be careful going to the bars and driving...maybe someone will call cops and report her for drunk driving....what goes around...

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    1. Wow, that is a story. I'm not sure how a GAL can be assigned without your imput and without a court order. That is puzzling. The bottom line is the GALs have total power to do whatever they want and they can get away with it, then they take every dime you have for their pay and the trial court will order you to jail if you don't!

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    2. I have an infant daugther she actually just turned one. and I also had a GAL apponited to my case. we were never married and never lived together. when I met with family relations. she mentioned a GAL I had no clue what that was and boy oh boy I wished i never agreed to it. I thought that someone from family realtions would help me. considering what I went through with my daugthers father. when she was 2 weeks old he tried ti kill me he was arrested. while my 2 week old was in the car I though to myseld this man is going to kill me and take my baby. as I explained this to the GAL she didn't give a damn what I went through prior. so I took my daugther and walked out of her office right in the middle of her asking me questions I knew in the back of my mind that I need an ATTY and I needed one fast because this GAL had no care in the world. I'm very angry that the GAL's are allowed to have such say over your children so you carry them for 9 mons, you in labor you are the one doing all the work you are supposed to do as a parent. but someone who's pronly only met with you kids once and make such a crazy decsions. this lady has been such a nightmare. and then on top of that you have to pay her as well. in my cae I am laid off and collecting I mad it very clear I could afford this women. I had to hire a new ATTY because the one I had wasn't doing what she was hired to do. I will never in my life ever go through something lke this again. I wonder if I can sue this GAL for the things she has said. its sad that this state is the way it is. something needs to be done and changed.

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    3. This is such an unfortunate situation and only too common. Keep fighting hard for your child!

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  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. Ct Senator (former) MaryAnn Handley was seeking legislation to remove "judicial immunity" for GALS in that there is no incentive to be accountable to the paying parents. You should be able to SUE a GAL for malpractice just like you could sue a regular attorney for malpractice. Now we are waiting for the right legislator to pick up with Senator Marys efforts. On question to a GAL during a interview for any possible conflicts of interest is ask him/her for their opinion on parental alienation syndrome being submitted to the DSM-5 and depending what type of response you get should determine whether you argue conflicts of interest to the court for such GAL appointment. Think of it like a jury selection, you want neutral minded people who harbor NO PREJUDICES.

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  23. Any parent looking to legislate removal of "judicial immunity" from GALS please speak up now so that we may send you to the proper web sites for contacting your current legislator and send petitions to your state congressman. Senator Mary Handley from Manchester was introducing the bill before she retired.

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    1. Please provide information to help with going forward with "judicial immunity" from GALS I want to have a voice.

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    2. I am not sure what you are asking here.

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  24. I have often wondered whether Senator Handley was forced to resign once she took on the issue of GALs. The power behind the push to have GALs is corrupt and growing.

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  25. Agree completely. I was looking at your site to see if tape recordings are admissable in court. My stepson's GAL is the most awful human being, totally ignorant of child development or psychology. She allowed his mentally ill mother to regain partial unsupervised custody, with no parenting classes or follow ups with mental health services. The GAL thinks it is best for my stepson to be with his mother even though she knew his main reason for wanting to be there was to take care of her physically & emotionally. It is not right to expect a young child to care for a parent under any circumstances. His mother sets no limits, can't even remember what day of the week it is and whether she has him, badmouths his father in front of him and calls to guilt trip him whenever he is at our house enjoying himself with friends. I fear for his physical and emotional health every time he is with her. There should be a way to get rid of these incompetent ad litems. Ours was a lawyer but she didn't want to hear any of the crazy things his mother did or said (even in presence of others), didn't want to interview mother's family, only interviewed child in mother's presence even though we had primary custody at the time, didn't want to interview the mother's psychiatrists and doctors until we pushed for it with lawyer, and would not even return our calls even though my husband was responsible for paying her. Our lawyer thinks the GAL lawyer is some type of advocate for the mentally ill because she was so unwilling to hear any evidence of his mother's incompetency as a parent, neglect or emotional abuse.

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  26. You must sue the GAL or AMC in Federal Court under 42 USC Sec. 1983 and demand a jury trial.
    Each GAL and AMC appointed by a Superior Court Judge is "acting under the color of the law" of the State of Connecticut.
    Research the Connecticut Family Law website for all regulations and training required of the GAL and AMC.
    If the GAL or AMC did not meet all the training requirements or did not fulfill their required duties during the divorce process, you have a cause for action.

    A GUIDE TO CIVIL RIGHTS LIABILITY UNDER 42 U.S.C. § 1983:
    AN OVERVIEW OF SUPREME COURT AND ELEVENTH CIRCUIT PRECEDENT

    http://www.constitution.org/brief/forsythe_42-1983.htm

    Preparing the complaint...

    http://tinyurl.com/bgj7qsw

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  27. Thanks very much for this information. I hope everyone who has a problem with their GAL and/or AMC keeps this in mind.

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  28. State of Connecticut Judiciary Committee: Reform the State's Corrupt and Broken Guardian ad Litem System

    http://www.change.org/petitions/state-of-connecticut-judiciary-committee-reform-the-state-s-corrupt-and-broken-guardian-ad-litem-system

    Peter Szymonik organized this petition and has recently met with Connecticut State Senators Sen. Gerratana and Sen. Doyle.

    This is Peters update of the meeting:
    We had a really good two hour long meeting last Friday afternoon with Sen. Gerratana and Sen. Doyle. My sense was that Sen. Gerratana was in disbelief at what she was hearing is happening in the family court. She kept asking over again “where is the focus on the children?” Sen. Doyle seemed less surprised but it was clear from his comments and questions that what he heard was even more serious and worse than he was led to believe was happening. He asked a lot of really good questions.

    At the end of the meeting, we documented these “like to have” goals for the upcoming session, which Sen. Doyle started presenting at hearings held today at the State Capital:

    · Stripping GALs of immunity
    · Creating clear definition of a GAL’s role (to limit it)
    · Establishing some kind of independent oversight and monitoring
    · Mandating that the court do some kind of financial means test, prior to assigning a GAL
    · Establish a cap on what a GAL can bill
    · Make it easier to remove a GAL – especially once court activity has ended
    · Pattern our laws after what Arizona just did – making a presumption of 50-50 shared parenting at the start of every case

    The response was a bit unexpected. Sen. Doyle said that he believed eliminating immunity could be achievable this session along with putting better boundaries around a GAL’s role. The one he said was “thermonuclear war” and would take much more time, was changing custody laws after what Arizona did – but we could at least start down that path. We expected the removal of immunity would be the tough one.

    Some of the major talking points were:

    The devastating impact the court’s dysfunction has on children. We each shared our personal stories of how fighting to be equal parents has financially devastated us and our families and the outrageous length of time court proceedings take due to the inherent operational problems and corruption in the court. The Martowskas’ personal story really hit home.

    We showed state guidelines which require that a GAL should make no recommendations to a court until they fully understand the child’s wishes and best interests, and that they need to meet with both parents and the children to discuss their recommendations prior to every hearing, but never do – and how GALs routinely ignore these guidelines. As further illustration, how this can even be possible if, in my case, I have paid $38,000 to two GALs who combined, have spent less than two hours with my sons in four years.

    The Martowska’s shared that their own story and how they have had to liquidate all of their retirement accounts, cancel the services of their counsel, and have their son declared “indigent” in order to make any progress in the court system and to seek enforcement of what the court has already ordered – all while the GAL ignores them and how long a child has been kept from her own father. Ms. Martowska showed a family picture – noting that these beautiful young children – who are cousins, don’t know each other and have never met – all because of what the court system has done to their family.

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  29. Peter's update continued...

    I showed a print out from the court’s web site showing that the GAL in my case is currently assigned to 56 cases. I pointed out that 56 cases times the $15K-$25K she gets per case, means she has billed between $860K-$1.4M – guaranteed to be paid by the court, with no one paying attention to whether or not she is actually providing any value or doing any real work. I further noted the column that showed that she has not been assigned to even one Pro Se case. Meaning that the judges only assign GALs to cases where parties have attorneys – so they assume they have money and know the attorneys can pay each other off. (You be the GAL next time ok?)

    I relayed how Emily Moskowitz, the attorney who was part of the precedent setting case which reinforced GAL immunity in this state over a decade ago, as since used her GAL role to create annuities for herself, by billing parents for years after their case has settled, even if there is no activity on her file. The judges let her do this, as Judge Avery-Whetstone’s son works for Emily.

    There was much more – one of the most import aspects of the meeting to me was seeing Mike relay that he is pursuing a law degree, because how dismayed and disgusted he is with what he has seen in the court system.

    I asked the senators to note that younger professionals like him, and the attorney who sent me the anonymous letter this week – are the ones who are not afraid to speak out and who we need to fight for – because they don’t want their children to have to suffer what they and their parents did, due to the failed policies of the past 30 years, and policies which have allowed the court to become what it has.

    Next steps:

    The senators are asking their researchers to start comparing CT laws to other those of more progressive states and start work on draft legislation to reform our state’s laws.


    Peter can be contacted at:

    peter.szymonik@galreform.org

    Please get involved now if you want the corrupt GAL system reformed. Contact Peter and the State Senators now. Write letters and organize meetings with the Senators. Volunteer to present your stories and evidence at planned hearings. This is the only way you can affect change.

    Good luck to all of you.

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  30. Has anyone ever overturned a GAL recommendation on appeal?
    The GAL ruled that what's in the kids' best interest is what is in the best interest of their mother--moving out of state. Contradicted herself on the stand, too...
    The kids are actually thriving, doing well in school, love both parents, and that they are in an ideal situation with easy access to both parents, live in a great neighborhood with friends and other responsible parents, but should move anyway. Away from dad, away from grandparents.
    Then she came up with the most moronic and convoluted visitation schedule..
    The best interest standard is a farce?
    I would rather a mental health professional than an attorney, I think.
    Since I'm still involved, I have to remain Anon.

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    1. This too happened to me and my son. He was doing extremely well in school and the visitation schedule was fine. Now my son is very depressed and has even spent time in Yale. The schedule is more than moronic and convoluted. I also have to remain anonymous, however, I am gearing up to go public. Zandri's, Wallingford, Saturday morning, 3/2, 10am.

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  31. Well, H.B. 77 will not address any of these issues, but good luck.

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  32. if you want to really retaliate against your GAL just craft up a legitimate factual web site about other case screw-ups, make a web site out of it on weebly.com a free web site provider and index it with "google". If you index properly, when ever someone searches a reference by name that web site will always show up as the 1st - 5th search line item and it will never go away. Just make sure the facts stated are accurate as internet defamation is new to litigation nowadays.

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  33. to anonymous at Feb 25 11:02am
    Yes I did..
    I overturned a GALs recommendation and she had to refund my portion of attorney fees.

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  34. how did you win aginst the gal mr anonymous? and will the courts listen to recorded evidence that will purge n discredit the gals "100 percent accurate report of her doing a proper investigation"?

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  35. oh yea it is legal in ohio as a 1 party consent state so the law says but the courts obviously do as they please bc we are all scared to stand up for ourselves as a whole

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  36. Ms. Sloper thank you so much for this blog! I'm about to enter court for custody and a GAL has been assigned - how can I refute at this point? Would the only way be to drop the custody?

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  37. I am not sure because I am not an attorney. I feel badly that you are in this situation. Are you willing to drop custody? If I were you, I would try to work out an equitable agreement for both parties as quickly as possible or in the alternative, educate yourself to understand how to deal effectively with GALs and do the best you can!

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    1. Hi! I'm going to have to make some decisions here. Thanks again for your blog!

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    2. Sadly anonymous, unless your judge hates the person selected for GAL, you're doomed. I once tried to have my GAL removed. I even had emails to show her bias/prejudice against me. The judge just ignored me completely and pretty much told me that I am going to owe her a lot of money after this. This is what the Judge SAID.
      A table of costs and fees plus scope of work must be established for ALL Gals. This is robbery by the courts.

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    3. They should have a table of costs! I can't believe this! I had no idea about this. Is my only way out to drop the entire thing?

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    4. Just want to add that I can't believe the judge said that to you! ...wow! Even in the bible it says to not become a judge lest you become despondent and unfair with justice.

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  38. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, ever let Margaret Bozek be appointed GAL. It appears that she has the way of threatening and intimidating lawyers and mental health professionals to do her bidding. Just in case you do not know that's called Racketeering per RICO.

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  39. Many, many years into my case and my GAL still does not know the name of my case (X v. Y -- NOT X v. X). But she did cash out $20+ K of my retirement to get paid.

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  40. I am not surprised to see the name Margaret Bozek come up. Also, yes, they will soak you dry and take everything you have,including your retirement funds. We need new legislation to take control of these sharks. Thanks for commenting.

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  41. Catharine -what do I do dealing with Margaret Bozek HELP!!!!!

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  42. There is a task force assigned to review these complaints with the government for the grievances in CT. Happy to provide more information on where to go to be heard.

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    1. If have a "task force" label on the left hand side of this blog. If you click on that label you will get all the updates on the task force and names of members of the task force. You can contact those people. The most recent update on the task force is as follows:
      http://divorceinconnecticut.blogspot.com/2013/10/i-called-will-you-let-your.html?showComment=1381551636021#c6325195424388980780

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  43. My understanding is that the legislature hasn't even begun to assign members to the task force and nothing has been done at all so far even though the bill was passed a long time ago. In other words it looks as though we have already got an incompetent task force right from the beginning. Furthermore, the legislators who will man this task force are the very same people who have sat around and done nothing despite years and years of complaints regarding GAL behavior. Some of these folks, being attorneys themselves, have first hand experience with the corruption and yet they are dragging their feet in the face of what is a very clearcut emergency where action must be taken RIGHT NOW, not lah de dah whenever these folks please. I am very skeptical and the Will and Ability of these folks to follow through and do the job just seeing how they are sitting on their hands and doing nothing even as we speak even though they have full authority to proceed and should proceed immediately.

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  44. GAL are nothing but lying, crooked people. I had one appointed and ha she sat on that stand and made up lie after lie. I wish they could be held accountable. I cannot believe they are inhumane the devils spawn if you ask me, to ruin a childs life for money. Sick sick sick people

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  45. Here in NC we are neither lawyers or mental health professionals and and we DO NOT GET PAID!!! It is all volunteer. I take my volunteer as GAL very seriously. I don't know why you are grouping all of us into one basket. I try to be as honest and fair as I can and work really hard not to have the wool pulled over my eyes.

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    1. Hi, remember I am writing a blog called "Divorce in Connecticut" because it is all about what is going on in Connecticut, not in North Carolina. However, I would love to hear more about what is going on with GALs in North Carolina. Could you contact me at my email address so that we can talk about this more? My email address is: Slopercathy@gmail.com. I would really appreciate it!

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  46. We must do something to stop these GAL this is out of hand!

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  47. Nice sharing , only child is suffering from divorce Attorney Montgomery AL is do there best ,i know from personal and recent experience.

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  48. My situation is very different. It's not a divorce. I have 2 children that are in the this situation. Their biological father has come back after 11 years and wants to be a father now. I don't think he should have the right to do so. He abandoned his children for a life of crime. The court ordered a guardian ad litem. She doesn't seem to get the picture. Everyone is concerned with the father's rights but what about my children. She is here to only decide what is best for my children. But it seems she is working on the fathers behalf. My point I made was how is this going to effect the future of my children. My kids are use to a normal life. Kids want to hang out with their friends, do after school activities. Kids don't want a life of when is the next time I am going to see my dad. Is it going to be in a state building. That would be a lot for a child to take on. So, I was told because I live in CT, it doesn't matter if he abandoned his children. It doesn't matter that he is a criminal. All that matters is that he is the father and has rights to see his children. That is not looking out for the best interests of the children. That is working all for the father. This situation can be very scary especially when you are in a situation that concerns your children. I have even spoken to different attorneys and they all say the same thing. He is the father and nothing else matters. If it were a woman that did this, she would be looked down upon and possibly not be given the chance, but when a father does it, he gets a slap on the hand and given visitation rights. It just isn't right.

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  49. I can tell you as a young Connecticut Family law Attorney with 3 years of experience in Connecticut family law and 10 years as an attorney in Connecticut, that I went to the GAL/AMC training in fall/winter 2012. At the end of the classes which were every Friday for over a month, then a month Break and over a month of Fridays totalling 30 Course, Judge Munro gave us a closing speech. She told us that if we were not already a well established Family Law Attorney WE WOULD NEVER BE SELECTED TO WORK AS A GAL/AMC. I was thinking to myself WELL WHY DONT YOU FIX THAT! Unfortunately anytime one of us young attorneys complains about the system , we are dismissed as not knowing what we are talking about. Even though the young family lawyers in Connecticut and the people of Connecticut are saying the exact same thing! Even though the young family lawyers in Connecticut do the bulk of the pro-bono work! I have yet to work on a GAL/AMC case, the certificate sits up on my wall. we have to get re-certified every year and it is a time consuming program. Therefore all of us that do not get any work as a GAL/AMC will never get the experience and eventually it will be too much of a waste of time and money to get re-certified. Just like in family law itself the established attorneys do everything in their power to keep young attorneys out. Unless you are one of the few young attorneys that get one of the few associate jobs eventually you will end up giving up and moving to another area of law or another state. Worse yet the top recruits who are at the top of their class from the top law schools may do family law at their first job but they can and will move to a more lucrative field of law.This means that although today 70% of family law litigants are unrepresented this number will increase well up to 90% in the future. this means that the rates for family lawyers are artificially inflated. the best in the business who go way above and beyond in representing you get $ 450-$ 500 and charge for literally everything and charge a 15 minute minimum. Also some of the worst family lawyers rates are $ 450-$500 and it is extremely difficult for a layperson to tell the difference. Then there are hundreds of young hard working family law attorneys like myself who do not have the money or networking to get the clients. The established lawyers warn against us for their own financial gain and eventually drive us out of the business. the fact is that 70 GAL/AMC's get most of the work in Connecticut out of the over 1,000 that are certified. the system benefits 70 well established family law attorneys at the expense of almost 1,000 other attorneys and millions of tax payers who use or are forced to use the system. the GAL/AMC sytem is so corrupt that I cannot even get a simple GAL/AMC case to work on when I offer to do it pro-bono. Competition in the family law field has become non-existent at the expense of the people of Connecticut. Unfortunately every time the State or a politician comes up with an idea to pay young lawyers a small fee to help out pro se parties nor even for the state to connect young lawyers and pro se parties it is always shot down. Why? Because the state calls one of the Attorneys who literally wrote the book on family law in Connecticut. He tells them that it is a bad idea with no explanation. They accept his judgment and kill the bill no questions asked. He says that it is a bad idea because competition is against his financial interests and therefore the bill is against his financial interest. No argument is solicited in favor of the bill and the millions that could and would benefit from it. Nothing changes and nothing will change until the people unify and come up with a realistic platform and let the politicians know that if there is not change they will be out of office.

    -The Pro-Bono GAL

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  50. Ok, I had a blip when I was moderating a comment made earlier on this blog posting and deleted a comment. Sorry about that whoever made it. The question you asked was whether you can do anything about GAL hearsay on the stand when they talk about what your children are alleged to have said based upon the GALs hearsay testimony on the stand at trial. There is literally nothing you can do about from what I gather. However, you can head off such remarks by making sure that prior to trial you request a deposition of the GAL so that you can learn in detail what the GAL intends to say should he or she be placed on the stand. That way you can be prepared with your defenses once you get to trial and you will be ready to respond to the concerns. I would never ever go to trial even as a self represented party without doing a full deposition of the GAL and the custody evaluator. This gives these people the opportunity to back off from any nonsense in advance because you can point out where their testimony could be found to be fraudulent should they continue forward with it. On the other hand, you have to be careful not to alert them regarding your strategies during the deposition so that they can outfox you at trial because you gave them advanced notice. It is a difficult dance, and depositions can be quite expensive, but they are worth every, single, penny. I hope this answers your question. Can GALs commit hearsay, yes, yes, they can. It is absurd, but they can and how the heck do you ever defend yourself -- good question. Depositions are the best answer. The other option is, during the course of the GALs investigation send in periodic requests for information and updates. At the end of his or her investigation or in the time leading up to trial, if the GAL comes up with something you've never heard before, you can claim denial of due process since the GAL had not responded to your inquiries, and you can certainly claim you were not given the opportunity to correct the problems, and ultimately you can claim you did not have sufficient notice to provide a defense to any complaints and that this influenced the GALs judgment improperly. I am not an attorney and I would certainly obtain an attorney's advice in regard to any of the statements I have made here. But I hope what I've said gives you some good ideas.

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  51. Its all out the MONEY....they could care less about your kids or the circumstances...and the bill will be astronomical!
    The ONLY winners in any divorce, are the attorneys!

    The justice system in all areas of court is very corrupt. The attorneys are friends with each other and sometimes the JUDGE as well. They know exactly what is going to happen, before any of you enter the court room....they worked it out behind your back,
    during those pricey phone calls, when only 2 seconds of that time is spent talking about your case. I have had legal bills reduced, based solely on the phone calls. Call and complain if that abuse is going on.
    WELCOME TO AMERICA~

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