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Showing posts with label GAL FEES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GAL FEES. Show all posts

Friday, March 30, 2018


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. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


During the hearings in regard to family court reform, we heard members of the judicial branch state that no litigants are threatened with jail in family court.  Here we have another example to the contrary as Mr. Peter Szymonik is threatened with jail if he fails to pay fraudulent attorney's fees to Rhonda Morra, one of the most corrupt GALs practicing in Connecticut today.  For the full story, please go to the Corruptct website at the following link:

Friday, September 19, 2014


The state has taken a step into the legal fee-setting business.

In wake of heated debate during the last legislative session over the cost of guardian ad litem and related services, the Judicial Branch has created a sliding fee scale in an attempt to control how much low- and moderate-income parents pay for for GALs, attorneys for minor children and other court-appointed lawyers who take part in contested custody cases.

The fee scale, which takes effect Oct. 1, will apply in instances where the combined annual gross income of both parents is between $39,062 and $100,000. Family law practitioners say the market rate for GALs is about $300 an hour, and some parents have complained that's led to total fees in a handful of contested custody cases of $30,000 or more. Under the sliding scale, the hourly fees will be considerably less.

For more information on this matter, please click on the link below:

Monday, September 15, 2014


For those of you interested in the AMC/GAL sliding scale which will be instituted in October 2014 in response to S.B. #494, please click on the link below.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Thank you very much.  

               CHIEF JUSTICE ROGERS:  Thank you. 

               Mike Doe No. 1.

               (Pause in the proceedings.)

               CHIEF JUSTICE ROGERS:  Good morning.

               MR. MIKE DOE NO. 1:  Good morning, Justices --

               JUSTICE EVELEIGH:  Good morning.

               MR. MIKE DOE NO. 1:  -- and thank you for the opportunity to speak to you this morning.  The first thing I’d like to address is a proposed rule to be added to the Practice Book which limits the information about children which can be contained in divorce opinions. 

                In divorce proceedings, minor children do not have the same rights as those children involved in juvenile proceedings or parental right termination cases.  The children’s private information, including their names, birth dates, and other information is routinely published in divorce opinions.  These decisions appear on the internet.  They can be read by hundreds of millions of people.  Those people include sex offenders and identity thieves.

               Children of divorce have their personal information exposed and they are routinely stigmatized and psychologically damaged by the sometime salacious and other private information about their parents which is contained in the decision.

               In one recent case, a family law judge published a 28-page decision which contained the minor children’s names, their birth dates, their home addresses, as one as -- as well as one child’s psychiatric history.  It was lifted directly from a custody evaluation which the parents believed was for the eyes of the attorneys and the court only. 

               Since the publication of that decision, Your Justices, one child, he’s my child, has suffered uncontrolled anxiety and can no longer attend school on a regular basis.  Every time either one of my children Googles their name, that decision is the first thing that they read.

               My requested rule change is that matters involving child custody has to be automatically sealed.  They do it in the states of New Jersey; they do it in the states of New York.  All child custody evaluations must be automatically sealed.  The public cannot trust that these decisions are not going to contain information that damages our children so much.

               My second proposal is an amendment with respect to GAL, AMC, fees and the appointment of GALs and AMCs.  In the Stamford Judicial District, family law judges repeatedly appoint the same small group of attorneys as GALs and AMCs.  The majority of these attorneys are billing families at $500 per hour.  Many do not have GAL and AMC certification and, meanwhile, there are hundreds of GAL- and AMC-certified professionals now in our state who are willing to work for state rates but they are never appointed.

               In one Stamford case, the GAL billed $500 an hour.  His fees exceeded $160,000.  He spent a total of 4½ hours with the same two children whose public information now appears on the internet.  In addition, when he was criticized for not performing his duties, he succeeded himself and an attorney -- as an attorney, having an attorney appointed for him at the cost of another $500 an hour.  That attorney was then also appointed as AMC representing both the GAL, himself an attorney, and representing the children. 

               After an 11-day trial, it was determined that that AMC had never even met with or spoken to either of the children.  Her bill, $100,000.  The family, a family of modest means, now a family that is insolvent, paid GAL fees of $260,000.

               The rule should be amended, Rule 25-62.  We have the rules but they’re not followed.  It says that GALs shall be appointed pursuant to a branch fee schedule.  They should be.  I don’t know why they’re not.  We have the rule; it has to be enforced.

               Thank you for your time.

               CHIEF JUSTICE ROGERS:  Thank you very much.



Sunday, March 17, 2013



If you obtain a GAL through the program funded by the State the cost of a GAL is considerably lower based on the information in this report.  However, there is a needs based requirement for this program.
Also, it appears that GALs provided by the State can be held more accountable through the office that hires them.  If you hire a private GAL, the only person you can complain to is the Judge and he or she is not likely to listen to you. 

For more information, please click on the following links:
OCTOBER 3, 2012


Saturday, August 25, 2012


One of the situations that vastly amused me (OK, not really!) when I was going through my divorce and subsequently was how the trial court would determine the manner in which GAL fees were paid. 
Ok, I agree, initially, the GAL fees were paid out of a credit account that was in both our names, and that was marginally OK.  Subsequently, however, we ended up with Stipulations, and then ultimately, a Parenting Agreement which stated that all GAL fees were to be paid fifty/fifty. 
This is where I swear everyone in the trial court lost their reason, my attorney, their attorney, the GAL, the judge.
The reason I say this is because when this agreement was put into place everyone was aware that my X continued to make a six digit salary at his very lucrative job, while I, as a result of the ongoing litigation and the subsequent need that developed for the children to have at least one full time parent, was making exactly zero, and expected to make exactly zero for a considerable time to come. 
So granting this, how did such a ridiculous financial arrangement end up in the Parenting Agreement when anyone and everybody involved in putting that Parenting Agreement together knew exactly how unrealistic such an expectation was?  Don't you all think there should be a law in the Practice Book somewhere precluding completely ridiculous and impossible to enforce provisions in Parenting Agreements?  I sure do. 
Anyway, so what happens under these circumstances where you've pretty much been forced to agree to a provision in your Parenting Agreement to pay GAL fees fifty/fifty when you can't afford to do so but you have been told in so many words you must agree to that provision otherwise you will lose custody of your children?  And, of course, those situations primarily apply to women and not to men, because usually in these high conflict divorces the men are very well off while it is the women have been impoverished as the result of the divorce. 
I'll tell you what this does strategically. 
If you are now in the middle of a high conflict divorce, please note that ordinarily the attorneys in the case will insist upon separating the litigation of the custody from the litigation of the financial matters.  This gives the men in these cases considerable strategic advantages over the women. 
First of all, most women in high conflict divorces exhaust all their financial resources on the custody because such women are so desperate to have  custody of their children they will spend all they have, and then end up with no resources with which to fight in regard to financial issues. 
Second, the fifty/fifty GAL fee agreement gets put into the Parenting Agreement and the trial court next schedules the adjudication of the financial issues for around four to six months after the custody issues were dealt with. 
Of course, by the time the custody issue has been settled, both parties will owe around $20K to $30K (or more) each to the GAL.  Immediately, eager beaver Father will set up a payment plan or even pay off the GAL and he is beaming and looking good and the GAL's best pal. 
In contrast, Mother, who no longer has a single penny anywhere and now has custody of the children and has to feed, clothe, and maintain them and probably only receives very intermittant if any child support and alimony since financial has not yet been settled and many Fathers won't obey court orders anyway in regard to support prior to dissolution, has absolutely no means to pay the GAL. 
So what does the GAL do? 
Don't even think that a GAL would have the patience to wait until the financial is settled to get his or her money, no, no, no!  What the GAL will do is file several Motions for Contempt, and the Opposing Attorney will file Motions for Contempt, complaining that Mother is violating the trial court order to pay the GAL at fifty/fifty. 

Meanwhile, such GALs are busily continuing to interfere in the case, adding on more charges, continuing to investigate, further attempting to locate more evidence against Mother and possibly generating an additional $20K to $30K (or more) in fees.  All of that gets added to the original bill so that the bill is now even more monstrous.
Of course, putting aside that most Mothers in a high conflict divorce have every reason to hate the GAL for his or her nasty, back stabbing, and lying, vicious, cruel and child hating ways, even if Mother wanted to pay, she simply can't!  The end result is, Mother begins the financial part of the litigation with several Motions For Contempt outstanding against her which the GAL and the Opposing Attorney immediately bring up right at the start of the hearings. 
So right away Mother looks as though she is non compliant and unwilling to work with the trial court and thus loses considerable ability to negotiate any kind of financial agreement which is in the least bit fair and equitable.  
I know you think that I must be mistaken, that the trial court would never fall for such obvious manipulation of the circumstances in a high conflict divorce, but trust me, the trial court does fall for it.  Or, to be more realistic, they pretend that they are falling for it and play it up to the hilt, acting with each case as though they never, ever, saw that situation before--NOT! 
Just last week I observed a Mother sitting on the stand getting grilled by a judge over not paying GAL fees when it was so darned obvious the lady didn't have a dime to pay.  "So," says the judge, "you deliberately disobeyed court orders and did not pay the GAL."  Well, naturally.  It is amazing how a person with an empty bank account will do that! 
So there is all this self righteous hot air putting the blame on the victimized Mother for a situation she had no control over, while Father, who is sitting on a small nest egg, no longer having to support his abused ex Wife and children, so he is happy to pay the GAL who put him in that lovely situation in the first place.  In fact, he is falling all over the place with praise for the GAL and telling the judge that he will do ANYthing to pay the GAL--well, not really, lots of these guys stiff the GAL as well in the end.  But not as publically, because they wait until after the dissolution of the marriage and the financial settlement to do it. 
This game can be played even better if the original custody agreement included family therapy to be paid--you guessed it--fifty/fifty by each of the parties.  If Mother, by any chance, skimped on the family therapy because she couldn't afford it during the time after custody was decided and the financial was to be heard, well, file a Motion For Contempt for that as well, and also use it as an opportunity to call into question Mother's fitness to parent. 
That, of course, compromises Mother even more in any attempt to negotiate a reasonable financial settlement. 
So you can see how, in a high conflict divorce, the fifty/fifty approach is a sure slam dunk to screw the X-wife for any abusive Father in a high conflict divorce. 
It is extremely rare for the trial court to use its brains and say Father makes a six digit salary, Mother makes nothing, so why don't we have an 80/20 split or something like that?  Apparently, thinking like this is much too challenging for the trial court.  It would involve actually treating Mothers equitably, and I think it is going to be decades before family court becomes enlightened enough to handle it that way. 
Meanwhile, for those of you in high conflict divorces, don't be hoodwinked when they come to you and tell you that they are handling the custody and the financial at separate times, or when they say you must agree to fifty/fifty payment of GAL and/or family therapy fees.  Make no mistake about it, when they do that, they are deliberately setting you up, and the outcome will unfold exactly as I have described it to you.  Forewarned is forearmed! 

Friday, February 24, 2012


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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


What do you do if you have no money to pay your attorney's fees during a divorce? 

What they say is that if you don't have any money for lawyers, you will simply lose the case. I don't know if this is true. What I will say is that I was lucky enough have access to money that came from my parents to pay my attorneys a substantial fee.

Of course, there is the whole ethical question of why the CT Family Court makes the assumption that litigants with parents who have money to pay, should be required to make those parents pay. Since when should third parties unrelated to the lawsuit be put in the position of having to pay for it? That's a good question I never got an answer to!

Nonetheless, parents money or not, in my situation having money available for litigation didn't make my attorneys any more effective. They were still substandard. So money isn't everything. In the same way that you can't buy love, you also can't buy a lawyer's good work. In order for lawyers to work hard for you, they really have to care about you, sympathize with your story, or do a financial deal that benefits you rather than the other party so it becomes worth their while to support you. If they don't, you are simply done for and you will lose.

On the other hand, if you don't have any lawyer at all because you absolutely can't afford one, then you definitely will lose simply because you have no idea how to handle yourself in a court room. It is one thing to represent yourself when you have been in the system for a while as I have been, but it makes absolutely no sense if you are totally new to the system and have no one to mentor you. At the very least you are going to need someone to ask questions of as you begin your divorce.

The good news is that, as with so many points of law, the legal system has developed a response to circumstances where one party is the primary earner and the other has few resources available with which to hire a lawyer. The intention of this legislation is to level the playing field so that one person doesn't bulldoze over the other simply because of financial advantage. This is CT STATUTE SEC. 46b-62 referenced above. There is the equivalent of this legislation probably in every state of the union. It basically authorizes the Court to order the earning party to pay the legal fees of the other. See the wording of the statute below:

Sec. 46b-62. (Formerly Sec. 46-59). Orders for payment of attorney's fees in certain actions. In any proceeding seeking relief under the provisions of this chapter and sections 17b-743, 17b-744, 45a-257, 46b-1, 46b-6, 46b-212 to 46b-213v, inclusive, 47-14g, 51-348a and 52-362, the court may order either spouse or, if such proceeding concerns the custody, care, education, visitation or support of a minor child, either parent to pay the reasonable attorney's fees of the other in accordance with their respective financial abilities and the criteria set forth in section 46b-82. If, in any proceeding under this chapter and said sections, the court appoints an attorney for a minor child, the court may order the father, mother or an intervening party, individually or in any combination, to pay the reasonable fees of the attorney or may order the payment of the attorney's fees in whole or in part from the estate of the child. If the child is receiving or has received state aid or care, the compensation of the attorney shall be established and paid by the Commission on Child Protection.

The bad news is that even though this remedy is available, the Court rarely orders it, at least for folks like us who are victims of high conflict divorce. As my divorce progressed and became more and more expensive, my family and lots of my friends and neighbors said, "Doesn't he have to pay your legal fees?" There seemed to be this presumption that my ex would have to. In reality, the Court rarely orders it--not as long as there are grandparents, extended family members, friends or retirement accounts available to be cashed in early, tax liability or not--they don't care.

I actually know of one person whose ex paid all of the legal fees in her case, and I'm sure that it does happen. She big time lost, though I'm not sure if it was because of how her legal fees were paid. But it is kind of suspicious, don't you think?

For the better part, my ex did not have to pay my attorney's fees, and the same thing happened to most other women I know in similar situations. So what do people do? Unless you have a great Aunt to borrow from, etc. etc. in these cases, the attorneys work for nothing until the financial settlement is finalized, at which point they get paid, and often these attorneys simply don't get paid at all. Also possible is that the attorney get paid in favors meted out at another time in exchange for backstabbing you and scuttling your case.

When I asked the several attorneys I had to make a motion to court to request attorneys fees, they simply refused to do it. They told me I would never be able to get the court to order my ex to pay attorney's fees. To be honest, I'm not sure what is the point of having a CT General Statute in place giving the Court the authority to get the earning party to pay attorney's fees for the non earning party if the Court is never going to make that kind of order. Be that as it may, it is there. 

What I hated was the fact that such a statute existed encouraged my friends and family to insist that it could be done and that there must be something the matter with me that I couldn't get my lawyers or the Court to order that kind of relief. The fact that this law--like many other laws intended to protect protective mothers--was only in the books for show was a concept that was far beyond their comprehension. So this law was more of an annoyance to me than anything else because it made me look bad...again!

Finally, within this legislation is an additional provision that you should all be aware of which allows the fees for the Guardian Ad Litem to be paid for from the estate of the child. This means that if you had put money aside for the child through the uniform gift to minor's act, or if you had a *college fund for the child, all of that could be seized by the GAL for the payment of legal fees.

*recent legislation, as stated below, now precludes the Court from seizing college funds for this purpose.

If you are heading for a divorce, make sure you take all the funds you have in the name of your children, make sure you consult with a tax advisor and/or an attorney regarding how you can protect them or disappear them. Good luck!