1. The work of GALs and AMCs reduces conflict and keeps the cost of cases down.
There are approximately 11,000 post judgment cases each year where litigants return to court because they are dissatisfied with the agreements in their cases. That is approximately 1/3 of the cases settled each year. These numbers do not represent a success rate. Further, the GAL is supposed to consider in their "analysis" information gleaned from third party sources such as school records, medical providers, and law enforcement, GALs often do no or little "research" into the real cause of the parental conflict - this failure seems to benefit the GAL financially, as they are able to keep the case going by covering up abusive behavior and pretending both parties are the reason for ongoing conflict.
2. The GAL provides you with an objective opinion when parents cannot agree.
Just because a GAL is a 3rd party, this does not mean that he or she will be objective. When any individual walks into a situation, he or she carries along and imposes into the situation the cultural, social, and religious assumptions, etc. that the person has been brought up with. So while you may acquire an additional perspective via the assignment of a GAL, it does not follow that this additional perspective will, therefore, be objective. Often, between the GAL and the parties there will be social, class, and ethnic, religious, and cultural barriers that prevent any pretense of objectivity. Gender bias is a major problem in these family court situations. $46 thousand in fatherhood funding and policies that put the interests of fathers above that of mothers leads the majority of GALs to pursue father friendly policies which lack objectivity.
3. If a GAL's services are expensive, it is caused by the high level of conflict between the parents.
When there is high conflict, this is the result of GALs or AMCs getting involved in a family they previously knew nothing about and passing judgment when they simply do not have the time, patience, or interest to actually understand what is going on with a family. Often, such GALs and AMCs will pursue policies or make statements and judgments about the families they are working for which are deeply hurtful and false and then use them to deny one or the other parent access to their children. If you review their reports, they are based extensively on hearsay and malicious gossip rather than actual facts and data, and few witnesses are asked to verify their statements with documentary evidence or something of that kind. They also frequently use psychological evaluations in their reports which are easily misunderstood and misinterpreted, particularly when the GAL or AMC is a non-mental health professional. This is the cause of increased conflict and expense in cases with GALs and AMCs, not the parents.
4. The only motivation GALs have is to help children and their families.
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!!
5. No one would be a GAL to get rich!
I guess wealth is a relative judgment. If family court professionals are going to claim that they won't get rich acting as a GAL, I'm going to say their definition of wealth is not the same as my definition. For instance, I have never earned more than $16.00 per hour. When I hear that GALs and AMCs are being paid salaries of up to $200 to $800 per hour, I fall right off my chair. To me, that is a remarkable sum of money for any individual to make. Imagine, if you were tutoring that student for the SATs or in an academic subject, you'd probably get more like $35.00 to $50.00 per hour and you'd probably end up seeing your client a whole lot more than a GAL does. In fact, many litigants complain that the GALs or AMCs in their cases never even met with their child client. Looking at it another way. In a single year, the GAL in my case earned $35,000. This means that in order to earn an over six figure income, all that GAL would need is 3 child clients. To me, that would indicate you are rich. Clearly, of course, the majority of active GALs have well over 3 child clients. So, if you want to ask me that question, I'd say, yes, you would be a GAL to get rich because you would get rich if you were a GAL.
6. GALs don't make the final decision, so don't blame them for it.
This is disingenuous. The overwhelming majority of judges and attorneys are greatly impacted by the recommendations that the GAL makes in his or her report. This is why, as they have so wisely pointed out, the majority of cases settle. Once a GAL report is out, both parties are under extremely high pressure to accept the GAL report and recommendation as written. Attorneys generally find these reports highly persuasive and do not wish to be placed in the position of deposing a GAL or challenging a GAL's opinions on the stand. So if you are a parent, and you refuse to accept the recommendations that a GAL makes, you will find yourself in the unenviable position of challenging the report all by yourself, because you just will not find an attorney to do it for you. This is where attorneys will threaten to withdraw if you don't agree to the GAL report and come to an agreement. This is unfortunate because so many GAL reports are flimsy, poorly written, and of generally poor quality since no one holds them to any kind of standard and they can get away with any kind of garbage they choose to come up with.
7. Each litigant has the opportunity to refuse the GAL's report or question their investigation.
This is simply not true. In my case, the judge ruled that I was not allowed to see the GAL report even though I had to pay for it. I have no doubt that this happens in many other cases. For the better part, litigants are denied the opportunity to depose GALS and AMCs and they are also denied the opportunity to depose the custody evaluators and mental health professionals that did work in their cases. For the better part, this is because such reports are so flimsy that if any such challenges were made to these reports, they would collapse right away. When I talk denial, this is not a legal denial in that if you looked at the law and if you looked at The Practice Book theoretically you can challenge these professionals. However, good luck finding an attorney who would be willing to do it for you. For the better part, even when they say they will challenge a report or depose a GAL, atttorneys will blow off the event, find an excuse to cancel it, or bully a party into settling before there is any chance to do so.
8. Without the GALs and AMC the court wouldn't be able to function.
This is just incorrect. Before the GAL and AMC legislation was put into place, the Court system worked just fine. In fact, based upon court data, it appears that prior to the existence of these officials, there were considerably fewer disputes. It is only since these professionals were put in place that the number of cases has steadily risen.
9. Children are assigned GALs or AMCs in cases where parents are involved in protracted, complicated disputes where abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, incarceration or substance abuse is involved. Don't children also deserve representation in these cases?
No, in such cases the children should be immediately placed in the care and custody of the non-offending parent. What is happening in these cases is that Family Court is insisting upon shared parenting, co-parenting arrangements with offending parents which exposes children to unsafe and damaging conditions. As I have stated in my frequently referenced article, "The Children Are Not All right", as a rule the Court system simply ignores and denies information of physical, mental, and medical neglect of the children impacted by family court. What we need is to end the policy of putting children into the hands of unsafe parents all in the name of slogans such as "children need both parents" when the reality is that no children need to be exposed to parents who will cause them harm and damage. Family Court should stop ignoring and denying the evidence of DV and substance abuse, etc. and instead make it a priority to safeguard children. Currently, this is not happening in family court and we all have reasons to be concerned about that.
10. Not the problem of GALs or AMCs or of attorneys, it is a matter of litigious parties. The parents are churning the litigation.
I had the experience where if I did not agree to do what my attorney told me to do, he or she threatened to and did withdraw from my case deliberately damaging my reputation in the process. Attorneys frequently lay down the law with their clients and will refuse to take certain actions and will alternatively insist upon their clients agreeing to other actions. In terms of the feedback I receive from readers, these kinds of threats are standard in family court cases. As I understand it, among the duties an attorney is called upon to carry out is the one to maintain control of his or her clients. So there is an understanding within the legal profession that while clients play a role in directing the course of a case, the attorneys role is much more paramount. The attorneys are the ones who construct the context within which litigation takes place, they are the ones who devise the strategy to a succeed in a case and have all the legal knowledge necessary to do so. To then state that they are subsequently the helpless victims of their clients, is simply not credible.
11. Statistics indicate that approximately 95% of family court cases settle before trial, and remaining ones are simply happy to litigate.
Other studies have cited 89% of cases as settling, and so it really depends upon which statistics you are citing. As stated before, with approximately 11,000 cases returning to court post judgment, it appears that many cases are only settled temporarily, which indicates the poor job that the CT Judicial Branch is doing. Further, corrupt family court attorneys and judges particularly target families with disposable income and that group is, of course, a minority group. So the fact that there is a smaller number of targeted litigants does not signify that no targeting is taking place.
12. Costs of GALS and AMCs are nothing like the cost of ongoing family conflict on children.
We cannot estimate such costs because the CT Judicial Branch has ensured that there is no accountability which could establish what such costs might be. For instance, a certain way of inserting accountability would be to put in place GAL and AMC evaluations in all, not just selected cases where these officials are used, where the parties, not just attorneys provide the responses. So far, we do not have such evaluations. There are many other forms of accountability which could be put into place, but are not; for instance, followup questionnaires to the children once they turn 18. Until then, we cannot speculate on the impact of GALs and AMCs on cases because we don't have that data.