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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


The April 2017 Addendum on the Judicial Branch Family Court Initiatives reported that the CT Judicial Branch would establish a Standing Committee on Guardians Ad Litem and Attorneys for the Minor Child in Family Matters. The Committee is the result of a change to the Connecticut Practice Book dated June 24, 2016 listed under Sec. 25-61A.  For the exact wording of this section of The CT Practice Book, please see the link below: 

Recently, I was taking a look at the CT Judicial Branch Website and found out that the Committee has now been established.  Its first meeting was held on Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 95 Washington Street.  According to the information provided on the CT Judicial Branch Website, the purpose of this Committee is as follows:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


The CT Judicial Branch reports the following changes in their report on Family Court Initiatives.  Is this enough?  Should we have more?

  • Reducing the reliance on the Guardians Ad Litem
  • Waiving service of process for a marshal to deliver a complaint to a party in a divorce
  • Intensive Case Management
  • General Case Management - reducing delays
  • Individual Calendaring - Single Judge in a Case
  • GAL accountability - Creation of standing committee
  • Family Volunteer Attorney Program
  • Divorce Navigator - Website Assistance
For more details on these programs, please click on the link below:


Friday, April 28, 2017


Today, I was at Barnes and Noble ordering my usual cup of tea when I noticed that the two female baristas serving me both wore fit bits. When I commented on the fit bits and made a link from the high tech gadgets to the Connie Dabate case, each one flashed their fit bit at me and announced, "best investment I ever made."  

In a sense now, wearing a fit bit is becoming somewhat of a radical statement, i.e. One: I'm going to be the fittest woman out there, just watch me with my fitbit, and Two: If you try and kill me and lie afterwards, you're going to be in a whole heck of a lot of trouble.  

This is, I guess, what Richard Dabate should have thought of before he killed his wife.  

Seriously, guys, what was he thinking of?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


On September 25, 2015, during an "ex parte hearing" in the Stvan v. Stvan case, the Court transferred temporary full custody to Thomas Stvan. At the same time, the Court also appointed Attorney Rosa Rebimbas as the Attorney For the Minor child or AMC.  Just to note, for your information, by ex parte I mean that Ms. Paige Stvan was not present at the hearing to defend herself from the accusations again her, and in fact, she wasn't even informed that the hearing was taking place.  By law, 14 days after the ex parte hearing, Ms. Paige Stvan should have been allowed to have an evidentiary hearing where she could defend herself.  But as I have stated, she never had one, which is illegal.

Of course, the immediate question here is, why does a 12 year old need an AMC?  An AMC   primarily participates in a legal matter involving a minor child to ensure the client is accorded her legal rights.  It is a very limited role and is usually reserved for older teenagers around 15,16 years old who are almost independent. No 12 year old is mature enough to make life changing decisions and direct the actions of an attorney at such a young age.  In contrast, a GAL's role is more geared towards conducting investigations and working with the family, which would seem more appropriate where one party had made unfounded accusations. 

What I would suspect is that the reason the Court assigned an AMC is that Thomas Stvan exaggerated the situation to make it appear as though Ms. Paige Stvan's condition was so severe that she wouldn't be in the picture for months to come, and that there would be no need for an investigation and a report in preparation for the 14 day follow up hearing to see if the change of custody was truly necessary.

Another reason a jaded person like me would speculate that the Court diverted from its ordinary manner of doing business and appointed an AMC for the child at this juncture is that all conversations, all correspondence related to representing a child become secret and confidential if you are acting as an AMC. Because documentation created or received while acting as an AMC is not discoverable, this means that acting in that role allows any legal professional considerable leeway to hide any wrongdoing.  

So who is this Attorney Rosa Rebimbas who is supposed to be acting on behalf of the child in this case as AMC? Attorney Rosa Rebimbas is a State Representative in the CT General Assembly.  This is the same Attorney Rebimbas who not long ago saw fit to verbally abuse and attack a fellow member of the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Minnie Gonzales, who has been so courageous in calling attention to the abuses and corruption of family court.  

Of course, those of us who fought for the Task Force that investigated the misdeeds of family court, those of us who had the courage to step forward, despite fears of retaliation, to speak out and provide testimony about our sufferings as a consequence of the wrongdoing of the CT Judicial Branch, have viewed Rep. Minnie Gonzales as our standard bearer.  Rep. Minnie Gonzales is the warrior who spoke out courageously on our behalf, who had compassion for our hurt and pain, and for the loss of beloved children and homes and college tuition accounts, who understood how it felt for us to be thrown out onto the streets, jailed and deprived of precious family bonds with our children as a consequence of the denial of our constitutional and human rights within the CT Family Court system.  

Attorney Rosa Rebimbas is the State Representative who took it upon herself to insult our standard bearer, Rep. Minnie Gonzales, and call into question her integrity and her devotion to the people of the State of Connecticut and also to the victims of family court.  This is the woman who appears in the middle of this case--Stvan v. Stvan--to orchestrate, what I believe to be, one of the worse cases of child stealing from a protective mother--Ms. Paige Stvan--that I have seen in years, and I've seen and written about some of the worst.   

Let me just say at the outset that it appears to me that appointing Attorney Rosa Rebimbas in a custody case before a family court judge represents a conflict of interest for her.  This is why I question whether it was appropriate for her to be in this case at all.  The reason why is because, at the same time she is appearing before Judge Gerald Adelman, she is also an active member of the CT General Assembly's Judiciary Committee.  It is her job to vote to reconfirm Judge Adelman to the bench when he comes up for reappointment.  So she is supposed to be appearing before Judge Adelman in a subordinate role, while at the same time she is also in the position of monitoring him and holding him to account for complaints that citizens make against him.  

Why is this even legal?  

There is also another conflict of interest.  At the start of this case during the ex parte hearing on September 25, 2015, Attorney Rosa Rebimbas was appointed to act as the Attorney For the Minor Child (AMC) in the Stvan v. Stvan case.  Again, we can call into question how come a child of 12 would ever in a million years have an AMC represent her, but be that as it may.  Later, in November 2015, Attorney Rebimbas switched roles and became the GAL for the minor child and handed the job of AMC to another attorney, Bradford Barney.  

I just personally find this switcheroo of roles very inappropriate.  

She shouldn't be playing two separate positions for the minor child, bottom line, of course, because it is confusing for the child, but most specifically because it blurs boundaries in regard to her responsibilities.  Of course, I am aware that in Connecticut Family Court it is a standard for an attorney to act as both Attorney for the Minor Child and Guardian ad Litem at the same time, but to me that's just one more example of the complete insanity of Family Court in Connecticut.  So now this little girl has been told she had one kind of relationship with Attorney Rosa Rebimbas, and now the page is turned and the relationship must transform to something completely different.  That's tough enough to do with an adult, but doing that to a child is outrageous!

As an aside, at this point it is worth noting that over half of the people elected to the CT State Legislature are all attorneys.  So it is like this private mafia of attorneys all together in this group, dominating the legislature, who I believe, engage actively in supporting and covering up for their comrades in the legal profession, even to the point where it is colluding with activities within the Family Court system which are causing harm and damage to Connecticut's citizens.  

If these conflicts of interest make you uncomfortable, you can imagine how uncomfortable they made Ms. Paige Stvan.  As a consequence, at the hearing on choosing a GAL for her little girl in November 2015, Ms. Paige Stvan strongly objected to the appointment of Attorney Rosa Rebimbas as GAL.   Not only did she object personally in Court, she also submitted two lengthy and detailed motions to the Court asking to have Attorney Rebimbas totally removed from the case, one on December 6, 2015 and another on December 8, 2015.  In doing so, Ms. Stvan had a strong legal position. Under CT Public Act 14-3, the Court must provide to the parties in a case a list of fifteen approved people to serve as the GAL.  The parties then have a right to agree on a person from that list of 15.  

Unfortunately, and this is where a huge loophole appears, if the parties disagree, then the Court is allowed to choose a person from that list of his own accord.  In the Stvan case, without even allowing the parties to confer regarding who would be the GAL, and without even providing them with the list of 15 potential candidates, Judge Gerald Adelman simply appointed Attorney Rosa Rebimbas over Ms. Paige Stvan's objections. Somehow, when it put CT Public Act 14-3 into place, I don't think that the State legislature intended the Court to ride rough shod over the wishes of the parties in a case as it did with Ms. Stvan, particularly when there were solid grounds to simply remove Ms. Rebimbas from the case entirely, i.e. her lack of neutrality and fairness towards Ms. Paige Stvan. 

As Guardian Ad Litem, it was Attorney Rosa Rebimbas' responsibility to carry out a full investigation into what was going on with Thomas Stvan, Paige Stvan, and the minor child.  As a result, If you review the record of the case, Ms. Paige Stvan brought to Court and made available to Attorney Rosa Rebimbas and the Court numerous mental health professionals and private citizens who supported her as an individual and as a mother.  There was Ms. Ashley Adamson, LCSW, Dr. Eric D. Jackson, Ph.D., Ms. Danielle Sileo, LMFT, Pamela Lape, M.S.W., Dr. Lawrence Lorfice, M.D., Dr. Linda Gunsberg, Ph.D., and Ms. Linda J. Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW-R.  as well as friends who provided letters and affidavits to the Court.

However, even though some of these professionals personally travelled all the way to Court, some from out of state, and spent the entire day waiting to provide their testimony, Attorney Rosa Rebimbas, from what I understand, prevented the Court from hearing about or listening directly to their testimony.  Not only that, she simply ignored the recommendations that these professionals made.  

In an email dated March 6, 2016, one of these professionals, Dr. Linda Gunsberg provided a written overview of a conversation she'd had directly with Attorney Rosa Rebimbas in which she recommended that an independent forensic family expert evaluate the Stvan family to determine what was going on.  Dr. Gunsberg also recommended a mental status examination of both parents, psychological testing of both parents and an assessment of the child.  In specific, Dr. Gunsberg stated that "the forensic expert must be trained in the assessment of children, parental alienation, domestic violence, and the interrelationship between domestic violence and parental alienation."  

Despite these recommendations from a trained mental health professional indicating the most effective way of resolving the case in the best interests of the child, Attorney Rosa Rebimbas simply ignored them all and didn't follow through.  

Overall, obstruction and non cooperation were Attorney Rebimbas' way of interacting with Ms. Paige Stvan across the Board in violation of her professional obligation as a GAL to remain independent and objective and to show respect for persons.  

Eventually, Ms. Paige Stvan directed several discovery requests towards Attorney Rebimbas.  However, instead of responding promptly, as was appropriate, the latter chose to ignore the requests, even though she received a court order on March 17, 2016 from Judge Gerald Adelman to comply.  I would suspect Representative Rosa Rebimbas felt that she didn't have to be too concerned about a Judge's order, seeing that she was such an important person. And she was right.  What is particularly egregious is that, in her incomplete response to discovery, Attorney Rebimbas took the opportunity to slander Ms. Paige Stvan's character further and draw negative inferences in regard to the presence or absence of her ADA advocates which had no basis in the truth.  As I have stated, ADA advocates didn't remain in the case because the Court disrespected their work.

It is true you can take advantage of self represented parties like Ms. Paige Stvan because they are vulnerable and often don't know the rules.  The only question I'm left with here is what happened to Rosa Rebimbas' oath as an attorney "that you will do nothing dishonest, and will not knowingly allow anything dishonest to be done in court"?  What about her obligation to uphold the law?  Did these conflicts of interest I have detailed here compromise Attorney Rosa Rebimbas ability to act ethically in this case?  We will never know.  What we do know is that, as a direct result of her actions, Ms. Paige Stvan has had to endure the worst kind of pain and injustice that a mother can be subjected to.  

Monday, August 15, 2016


My parents were married for over 60 years, but it wasn't all a bed of roses.  I will never forget how, after one of their big fights, my father asked me who I wanted to live with once they divorced--him or my Mom.  I wasn't going to be stupid and answer a question like that--even at ten I knew better!  Sure enough, they made up and the question became moot.  

However, if I'd thought it was a serious question, this is what I might have answered.  I would have said I wanted to live with my Mom, not because she was the better parent, but because she needed me more because of her drug and alcohol addiction.  I'm not sure that would have been such a good idea, however!  

So how do judges decide who gets the children--do they just ask the kids or what?   

The question of who gets custody of the children after a divorce remains a complex and difficult question in some divorce cases.  Luckily, most people see the common sense of keeping Mother in charge when she has been the primary parent on an ongoing basis and allowing for generous visitation from Dad.  But in divorces where custody is under dispute, how does the Court make the decision in regard to custody, and do judges in these cases take into account the preferences of the children involved?  

In CT, under 46b-56(b) the following factors are supposed to be taken into account as follows:
  1. The child's developmental needs
  2. Each parent's ability to meet the child's needs
  3. Each parent's desire to have custody
  4. The child's relationship with each parent, siblings, and anyone else living in either parent's home that may affect the child's best interests
  5. The stability of each parent's residence
  6. Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  7. Whether either parent tries to manipulate the child or involve him or her in the parent's dispute
  8. Each parent's ability to be actively involved in the child's life
  9. The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  10. The length of time the child has lived in the current environment if it's stable
  11. The child and parents' mental and physical health
  12. The child's cultural background
  13. Either parent's history of domestic violence
  14. Whether the child has been abused and neglected
  15. The child's wishes as to custody, and
  16. Any other factors relevant to custody
As you can see, the child's wishes are way down there under 15.  It is not highlighted as a major factor.  

However, what I find really interesting when I talk to people who have not yet been to Court over custody is how many parents believe judges put a lot of weight on what the child wants.  In fact, what the child wants, even when he or she is a teenager, often isn't a major consideration in regard to custody decisions.  I hear so many parents say my daughter or son wants to live with me and he is 8, or 10, or 12 or whatever age, and can now decide.  Well, no, that is not the case.  Ultimately, the judge decides and the decisions will be made based upon the judges' assessment of all the factors under consideration listed 1 - 16 above, even one as vague as #16 "any other factors relevant to custody." 

In addition, keep in mind that the final decision is supposed to be based upon that often vague and greatly vilified standard "the best interests of the child."  

I hope all of you noted the "friendly parent" factor that so many protective mother advocates hate item #6 on the list above.  We do have a friendly parent factor in the State of Connecticut!  

So, despite the limitations involved that I have mentioned, at what age can the Judge begin to take into account the preferences of the child?  In the State of CT at younger than 5, the opinion of the child is not a consideration.  At 13, the child's preferences have a much greater impact. Between 5 and 13, Judges will consider the child's preferences on a case by case basis, whatever that means.  In California, FYI, the age at which a child's preferences are considered is 14.  

However, Judges ultimately have complete discretion regarding the impact a child's preferences will have on a custody decision.  If the Judge thinks that a child's preferences are based on poor judgment, he or she is unlikely to consider them.  As Divorcenet stated "A court can disregard a child's preference when the judge believes it's not in the child's best interests."  

Notoriously, if judges believe that a child's preference is founded upon "Parental Alienation Syndrome" PAS, that judge will be unlikely to grant custody to the alleged offending parent no matter what the child says. This is what happened in the Kathi Sorrentino case where the child was 15 and expressed a preference to be with his mother. However, the child's preference, on the most frivolous grounds, was determined to be an expression of PAS so father was given sole custody.  

Therefore, people who think their child can make up his or her own mind at the age of 13, this is simply not the case.   Case law supports this wishy washy approach as in Knock v. Knock, 224 Conn. 776, 788-9 (1991) where the Supreme Court ruled that the Court "does not require that the trial court award custody to whomever the child wishes, it requires only that the court take the child's wishes into consideration."  So a Judge may or may not take a child's preferences into consideration.  

So, how does the judge discover what a child's preferences may be.  In Divorcenet, there was a complete discussion regarding judges determining a child's preferences by interviewing the child in chambers along with a discussion of how an attorney should manage that kind of interview.  In all my time hearing about divorce and custody matters in Connecticut during the last decade, I have never known a judge to interview a child in chambers about his or her preferences.  It could be this does happen and I just don't know about it, but still.

Also, there was a discussion of when children can testify in open Court regarding their preferences.  I have known many parents to insist that their children ought to have the right to testify in Court regarding their preferences. As far as I can see, judges absolutely frown on parents who insist upon putting their children through the trauma of testifying in Court.  This is so certain that I can pretty much say that if you insist upon having your children testify while your ex doesn't, that's about a guarantee that you will not get custody of your children!  

For the better part, if there is a custody dispute, what happens is that if your child is under 13, the court will appoint a GAL, a custody evaluator, or a family relations officer to do a thorough investigation of your circumstances in order to present a recommendation to the court which will ordinarily be accepted.  If the child is 13 or older, it is likely the child will be assigned an attorney of the minor child in order to advocate for that child's wishes.  But all of this is really not rigidly adhered to.  I've seen children who have both a GAL and an AMC. I've seen children over 13 who only have a GAL.  It all depends upon the politics of your particular case.  

The real danger of these investigators is that you have to rely on their word that when they report the wishes of the children that they are actually telling the truth.  I have no doubt that they lie on occasion.  Thus, if you have any concerns about the investigator in your case, you might want to have your child sit down and write to the investigator stating what his or her preference is so that it is on the record.  If the custody evaluator or GAL will not accept it, which is what happened to me, you can simply submit it directly to the Court.

You may be accused of manipulating your child to write the letter, but if you have concerns about the truthfulness of the professionals in your case, it is better to be thought of as manipulative than not have your child's preferences considered at all.  

Bottom line is, the State of Connecticut has a presumption of joint legal custody if both of you agree to that.  What is interesting is how few attorneys actually explain that to their clients.  What you are actually fighting over most of the time is which parent is going to be the residential parent, i.e. the home where the children primarily reside, i.e. what is considered their residence legally speaking for matters such as school attendance.  Other than that, the sky is the limit in terms of how much actual time each parent gets to spend with the children.  

Traditionally, the visitation is set for one or two evenings a week and every other weekend for the non-residential parent, but I have known people to renegotiate that for more time for the non-residential parent.  

When you get down to it, fighting over this day here or that day there to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars is pretty silly, and most couples left to their own devices will work out a modus vivendi.  

The question is do you truly want to create an unpleasant atmosphere by quarreling at every turn.  Many abusive family court attorneys and vendors would love you to, but it is your job to see through them and move forward. Trust me, ten years later when you are considering college tuition fees, you will be happy you did so. 

Bottom line, again, when it comes to the children's preferences, do not count on them to get you custody because it is not an absolute.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015



"12/21/15 -- Seeking written comments regarding the Guardian ad Litem Subcommittee Draft Report 

The Guardian ad Litem Subcommittee is seeking written comments on its draft report to Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers. Written comments will be accepted on or before Tuesday, January 12, 2016. 

The comments may be e-mailed to: or mailed to:

The External Affairs Division
Supreme Court Building
231Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Anonymous submissions will be considered but afforded less weight than signed submissions."

Monday, November 30, 2015


The CT Law Tribune reports as follows:

"Any attorneys who would like to add guardian ad litem work to their practice need to undergo training first, but the state hasn't offered it in two years and no new trainings are scheduled.

Attorney Tracey Russo, who has an office in Orange, said she would like to be a GAL, and has been trying unsuccessfully to take the required training class for about three years. A GAL represents the interests of children in family court matters, including custody, care, support, education and visitation.

 "I think parents are looking for there to be more guardians ad litem to choose from," Russo said. "I have been trying to do this for years. If you are going to require training, you should have training at reasonable intervals..."

Read more:

Friday, October 2, 2015


David Iversen of WTNH Channel 8 reports as follows:
"(WTNH) — In October 2014, new rules that regulate Guardian Ad Litems went into effect in Connecticut. 
A Guardian Ad Litem is a court appointed investigator who, in effect, reports to the court what is in the best interest of a child in the midst of a divorce. 
The News8 Investigators asked Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano and Representative Dan Carter about what they see as the legislatures role in the future of oversight within family court."


David Iversen of WTNH Channel 8 reports as follows:
"(WTNH) — Alex Seretny knew he wanted to be a part of the military.
“It was always something I was curious to myself about. Can I do this? After 9/11, I said, I want to do this.”
After three tours of duty in Afghanistan, he received a bronze star and a purple heart.
He is, by all accounts, a war hero.
That time overseas cost him at home. Seretny’s marriage failed. When he came back to Connecticut, another battle began.
“We were released on a Friday and Monday morning I showed up in a courtroom,” said Seretny.
On a soldiers salary, Seretny could not afford an attorney. A family court judge had a solution to the custody dispute: Assign a Guardian Ad Litem.
A Guardian Ad Litem is a special investigator assigned to family court cases to represent the best interest of the child. In essence, A GAL’s job is to review the family life of both mom and dad and recommend to the family court where the best place for the child or children is.
According to statistics provided by the Judicial Branch, Guardian Ad Litems have been assigned to five percent of the family court cases. 1,234 assignments among the 23,500 family court cases, which excludes restraining order cases.
Seretny was charged $300 an hour for his GAL. He never tallied up his total bill.
“Honestly, I don’t want to put the numbers together because I don’t want to know what that number might be.”
The number is almost $4,000 between Seretny and his ex-wife. According to bills provided by Seretny, the hours charged are for writing letters, listening to voicemails, a single meeting with each parent and court preparation.
“It’s frustrating,” said Seretny. “It was supposed to be a representative for my daughter. That did not happen.”..."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Nicole A. Carnemolla, 
J.D. Candidate at the Quinnipiac School of Law
Wrote in the Quinnipiac Law Review as follows:



When parents are in the midst of a high-conflict custody dispute,judges often appoint either an Attorney for the Minor Child (AMC) or a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to protect the child’s rights, to advocate for his or her best interests, and, at times, to express the child’s wishes.1 For more than five years, a committee of experienced professionals in Connecticut2 has struggled to improve the quality of the work performed by these child advocates. Despite these efforts, some parents feel that Connecticut’s AMC and GAL system is “horribly broken.”3 Recently, aggrieved parents joined together to voice their concerns and caught the attention of the Connecticut Legislature.4

For more on this article, please click on the link below:

Saturday, May 23, 2015


I remember when I first had to deal with a GAL in my case.  She came on board around August 2006.  I swear this lady was 300 pounds or so.  I recall our first meeting in my home--she conducted all our meetings in our home--and I remember that after she left, I collapsed on my couch in despair because I was well aware that she was totally against me.  How did I know?  I have no idea--I just knew.  That's how sensitive I am as a person.  

It would have been hard to prove at the time, however, because many of the nasty things she did were not done out in public.  For instance, in November 2006, this GAL wrote a detailed report that completely trashed me to the custody evaluator, but she didn't give me a copy of it.  In fact, no one officially received a copy of it except the evaluator, but I'll bet it got passed around to people anyway.  I only had a chance to take a look at it several years later through a motion for discovery in another case.  By then, of course, the entire custody matter had been settled and there was nothing I could do about it.  

The bottom line, however, is that the measure of a GAL, if not a custody evaluator, is how effectively they have been able to resolve the conflicts in a case.  If there is extensive pre-trial conflict, and then post judgment conflict in which the parties continue to fight over custody despite the involvement of the GAL and/or custody evaluator, this means that these professionals have failed to do their jobs and should be removed from their positions.  

Thus, it seems fitting that on March 21, 2014, approximately three months after the fake Amber Alert debacle, Judge Adelman ordered GAL Attorney Kerry Tarpey off the case.  

I am assuming this was not only in response to the fake Amber Alert nonsense, but also to a motion Colleen Kerwick filed on November 25, 2013 "Motion For Removal of Guardian Ad Litem".  

In this motion, Ms. Kerwick accused GAL Kerry Tarpey of demonstrating bias against her.  For instance, she states that on multiple occasions Attorney Kerry Tarpey spent considerable time consulting with the father in Court conference rooms.  In contrast, allegedly Attorney Tarpey refused to meet with the mother for any formal sit down meetings.  

Further, Kerwick's motion alleged that Attorney Kerry Tarpey neglected her duty to the minor child, failing to take into consideration that mother was the primary parent up until the time of the filing for divorce.  Most damaging among these allegations is the statement that Attorney Tarpey wrote letters on behalf of the father instructing doctors and other professionals that the mother no longer had any decision making authority and then did not inform the mother she had done so.  

Attorney Kerry Tarpey also is alleged to have steadily disregarded the manner in which the father neglected their child's medical needs.  

I am by no means in a position to verify the truth of these allegations in detail, but I do have a copy of all the bills that Attorney Kerry Tarpey generated from July 31, 2012 when she came into the case until December 27, 2013.  I obtained them from a motion Attorney Tarpey filed a week after the fake Amber Alert incident in which she requested a hearing in order to make sure her bill would be paid.  

I was rather struck by the timing there.  Did she want to ensure that she would rewarded for her collusion in that matter?  

From what I can see, these bills indicate that Attorney Kerry Tarpey spoke to the various attorneys representing Kenneth Savino--Attorney Steven Dembo, Attorney Campbell Barrett, and Attorney Jon Kuckuka--up to 34 times.  In contrast, Attorney Tarpey only spoke to Colleen Kerwick's attorney 7 times, and that only during a single month period immediately before dissolution.  

Also, Attorney Tarpey didn't once speak to Attorney Anne Dranginis, who was Colleen's primary attorney during the months prior to judgment.  

I find it quite striking that Attorney Kerry Tarpey would be consistently in touch with father's attorney, and barely, if ever, speak to the mother's attorney.  That tells a story of bias in and off itself.  

In addition, Kerry Tarpey only did a single home visit to Ms. Colleen Kerwick's house for an hour and fifteen minutes, and I don't see that she made any visits to Kenneth Savino's house.  

Furthermore, and what is even more telling, in total, during her entire involvement in the case, Kerry Tarpey only met once with her child client for 30 minutes on January 8, 2013.  In other words, overall Kerry Tarpey charged "more than $40,000 to represent the best interests and wishes of" the child and yet only $150.00 of that was actually spent on meeting with the child.  

How can you possibly provide opinions on the best interests of a child when you barely even met with him or her?  

As I stated earlier, in an order dated March 21, 2014, Judge Adelman allowed GAL Tarpey to withdraw from the case, which I believe was a good decision based upon these facts. There is absolutely no justification for medical neglect of a child, and denying a good and fit mother who has largely been the primary parent joint decision making makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.    

Finally, there were several other orders issued on March 21, 2014.  One that I consider peculiar to say the least is Item #2 which commands Dr. Barbara Berkowitz to prepare a psychological evaluation "based on the limited information she currently has given the defendant's refusal to participate."  

Simply put, if any psychologist actually obeyed such an order he or she would be in complete violation of their professional ethics--you can't properly evaluate a person with incomplete data.  

I also find it absurd that any judge would interject himself into a separate area of professional expertise in which he does not have training and attempt to direct what this other professional will or will not do.  

Further, when will the Court, not only in Colleen Kerwick's case, but with so many other litigants, stop attempting to smear and slander good and fit parents by calling into question their mental health in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and as Amended in 2008.  

But if we must hear from a mental health professionals regarding Colleen Kerwick because the judge insists, let us hear from Dr. Stephen M. Humphrey, a well respected professional who has done extensive work for DCF in Connecticut and who did a thorough evaluation of Colleen Kerwick. In a letter dated April 11, 2014 written to Colleen Kerwick, he states as follows:  

"With regard to your question about parenting capacity, I have not observed you engaged in any acts--or exhibit any pattern of thought or behavior--that would suggest to me that you could not function entirely capably as a parent to your son.  Further, I have viewed numerous photographs and videos of the two of you together that suggest you have had a rich, loving, and positive relationship with each other.  I am concerned that a prolonged separation from your son may have adverse psychological consequences for him especially because at his age he is likely to be confused as to why such a separation has occurred or is continuing."  

Report of Neuropsychologist Dr. Rimma Danov dated November 6, 2012 regarding Ms. Colleen Kerwick:

"Her responses to an objective psychological measure revealed that she is [a] warm, compassionate, outgoing, ambitious, active, self-confident, and  sensitive individual.

Her responses suggest that she is a person who accepts personal responsibility and is ready to make changes if necessary to better herself and her relationships with others."

And finally, "She does not present with any symptoms of personality disorders or psychiatric disorders."

Kenneth Savino, from what I understand, has spent over $600,000 in order to eliminate Colleen Kerwick out of the life of their child.  I think folks don't need to look any further than this number to know that this case is all about  father's superior access to money, power, and influence, and nothing else.

Over a thousand people agreed who signed the petition to return the child to the mother.  See below:

As a followup on the case, Ms. Colleen Kerwick posted the following later in 2014:

"After trying my own custody case in Family Court from October 20-29, 2014 against my exes teams of attorneys, shared parenting and joint physical custody was again ordered on November 5, 2014."

Still, no good mother like Colleen Kerwick should be put through this kind of family court injustice. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


A friend of mine recently told me her GAL story.  Let's call her Sally.  According to Sally, it was getting to the end of her custody evaluation and her son, John, came to her and said that he wanted to stay in Connecticut and didn't want to be with his father out of state.  

Sally would like to be able to say this was because of her wonderful parenting skills, and that he preferred to be with her marvelous self.  In fact, what primarily influenced John was his attachment to his home and his community as well as his strong relationship with his friends.  Simply put, John was a homebody who liked to hang out with the same kids he always hung out with and didn't want any changes.  

In response,  Sally told John to sit down and write a letter to his GAL and explain how he felt.  John went ahead and did that and gave the letter to his GAL.  In response, the GAL said that she could not take John's views into consideration and that she was going to make her decision independent of his wishes.  

When Sally heard this reaction from the GAL, she immediately went to the custody evaluator in the case and made an appointment for John to speak directly to the doctor.  In a session that was often very tearful, John explained how he felt.  When the final custody evaluation came out, not only did Sally end up with residential custody, there was a special section in the doctor's recommendations that specifically addressed John's wishes and made sure they were respected.  

When I listened to Sally's story, my question was directed towards the GAL.  Why didn't the GAL respect John's wishes?  

Clearly, the psychiatrist in the case felt that John's concerns were important, so why didn't the GAL think that it was in the best interests of the child to take in account his expressed wishes?  This is not unusual in many custody cases--frequently, GALs will simply refuse to listen to or respect what their child clients have to say.  

A similar situation occurred in the case of Karyn Gil v. John Gil where Attorney Campbell Barrett of Budlong and Barrett, LLC was the Guardian Ad Litem for the child.  When Attorney Barrett was first appointed to the case, he met with the child--Ashley--who was too intimidated by him in their first meeting to really speak to him.  

The second time they met, there was a more positive interaction and at the end of the visit, Attorney Barrett gave Ashley his business card and said that he would return her call if she ever reached out to him and called him even if all she wanted to talk about was Harry Potter.  

However, when the time came and Ashley called Attorney Barrett with a question, Attorney Barrett couldn't be bothered to call her back.  

Continuing to reach out to Attorney Barrett, Ashley then had her therapist Dr. Ginther call on her behalf asking that he call her back.  Still, Attorney Barrett didn't call her back.  Finally, Ashley wrote a note to Attorney Campbell Barrett asking him to call her and giving him specific times to call, but still he didn't bother to call her back.  

When Karyn Gil's attorney asked Campbell Barrett why he didn't call Ashley back his response was that he was too busy with other cases and didn't have time.  Does that truly make sense as an answer?  If you have so many cases that you are unable to meet the needs of your child clients, shouldn't you resign and let someone else on the over 1000 list of qualified GALs have a chance at employment?  

As a side point, not only did Attorney Campbell Barrett completely disregard his client, Ashley Gil's, requests, he also felt comfortable gossiping about her in the open where everyone could hear his remarks.  Specifically, during the break in one of the hearings in the case, he engaged in a gossip session out in the corridor with Attorney Emily Moskowitz and Attorney Jeff Mickelson (Karyn's prior attorney in the case) about Ashley's private business, apparently stating that he was going to "spin" the testimony of Ashley's therapist in the case so the outcome of the hearing would go his way.  (We know the conversation took place because the maternal grandparents, whom Attorney Campbell Barrett had not yet met, were sitting nearby and heard every word.)  

This is hardly the kind of behavior anyone would expect of a family court professional.  No wonder none of these cases get resolved properly!  

The same situation occurred with the Kathi Sorrentino case in regard to her son, Storm.  The Court stated that it wanted to hear Storm's voice and so it appointed Dr. Eric Frazer as the GAL.  Storm repeatedly told the Court, told Dr. Eric Frazer, told everyone both verbally and in writing that he wanted remain in the residential custody of his mother.  

Nonetheless, his expressed wishes were simply ignored, he was placed in the full custody of his father against his wishes and so eventually he went AWOL and disappeared for a month only returning when his mother was jailed.  When the Court asked Dr. Eric Frazer, the GAL, if he had met with Storm, "Have you talked to him at all?", Dr. Frazer's response was, "I haven't been having conversations with Storm..."  Well, why not?  Aren't you his Guardian Ad Litem?  Aren't you supposed to be speaking to the child so the Court can listen to his voice and hear his perspective?  What is it with GALs who think they can act with complete independence and disregard of their child clients?

The bottom line is that the GAL system was put into place as a result of a shift in understanding regarding children.  It reflected a recognition that the old adage that "Children are to be seen but not heard" fails to acknowledge their equitable right to some measure of self-determination in regard to their lives.  

Children need to have an attorney, it was theorized, in order to defend their best interests, and not only that, they need to have their voices heard despite the fact that they are still minors.  

Unfortunately, the way GALs are currently playing it, they are continuing to maintain this paternalistic attitude of "father knows best" and carrying on as though it is not important to at least consult with how the children involved feel about the crisis that is going on in their lives and what they would like the outcome to be.  

It is important to know that as long as we continue on with the GAL system as it is, children will continue to suffer in silence.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


In the family court system the immunity from liability extended to court professionals who arises from the concept of judicial immunity.  In other words, the immunity that judges are entitled to is also granted to other professionals within the legal system who are considered integral to the legal process.  Judges cannot be sued for any of the judicial acts they take in their capacity as judges, although they can be sued in regard to their administrative acts.  This immunity given to judges obtain is supposed to free them up to make the kinds of principled and fearless decisions necessary in order to serve the interests of justice in the court system.

There are two kinds of immunity that can be extended to professionals who work within the legal system. There is qualified quasi-judicial immunity which still leaves you liable if you act maliciously or wantonly outside the law, and then there is absolute quasi-judicial immunity which means that you can't be held liable no matter how badly you behave.  

State Officials have qualified quasi-judicial immunity for actions performed during the course of their duties in their work.   Public defenders are also at the same level--they have qualified quasi-judicial immunity.  But there are other court employees who are considered entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity because their work is thought to be integral to the judicial process. These include judges' law clerks, prosecutors, witnesses, and court-appointed professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists--the list begins to get quite long.  

For example, the Supreme Court decision in the Corrubba case goes further to mention other functionaries such as bankruptcy trustees, probation officers, court appointed receivers and court appointed medical examiners that are also entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity.

When the Supreme Court in Corrubba v. Moskowitz affirmed the right of AMCs to absolute quasi-judicial immunity, it did so by adopting a three pronged test for establishing immunity developed by the U.S. Supreme Court.  These three prongs are as follows:

1) Does the official in question perform functions sufficiently comparable to those officials who have traditionally been afforded absolute immunity at common law;

2.  Is the likelihood of harassment or intimidation by personal liability sufficiently great to interfere with the official's performance of his or her duties;

3.  Do procedural safeguards exist in the system that would adequately protect against improper conduct by the official. 

In regard to prong #1--functionality--to understand how the issue of functionality could be interpreted in regard to a Guardian Ad Litem, an Attorney for the Minor Child, and a regular attorney, you would have to understand their respective positions. 

A Guardian Ad Litem's job is to pursue an investigation and return with recommendations which serve the children's best interests.  An AMC is required not only to advocate on behalf of the children's legal rights, he or she is also expected to work on behalf of the children's best interests, so she has a double  role.  A regular attorney simply advocates diligently for the legal rights of his client and develops strategies to obtain those rights. 

Attorney George Kramer for the Plaintiff, Paul Carrubba, argued that an Attorney For the Minor child's job isn't in the least bit different than that of a regular attorney who is diligently advocating for his client's legal position. 

In contrast, the Amicus Brief in support of the Defendant Emily Moskowitz, argued that an Attorney For the Minor Child has the unenviable task of determining when to advocate for the children's legal position, and when the children's insight and capacity for decision making is deficient to the point where the Attorney For the Minor Child is obligated to push for the children's best interests instead. 

Further, Attorney Robert Kor pointed out that an Attorney For the Minor child doesn't have the same freedom when advocating for their child clients.  Specifically, an AMC is not authorized to have a psychiatrist or psychologist evaluate a child or his or her parents for a custody evaluation without the authorization of the Court.  Furthermore, an Attorney For the Minor Child is not able to proceed with a deposition or an appeal without the permission of the Court. 

Of course, I am not sure that balancing out the warring imperatives of legal rights versus best interests of the child standard inherent in an AMC's job is any different than balancing out the warring imperatives a family court attorney has between winning at all costs versus taking into consideration the needs of the children in a dissolution of marriage action. 

And while an AMC may not be able to proceed with various evaluations or depositions, the likelihood is that the parents' attorneys will conduct both of those activities for the better part and thus provide sufficient information for an AMC to advocate his or her position.  So these are very minor differences.

Prong 2--harassment--the U.S. Supreme Court test raised the question of whether AMC's would be the subject of harassment from parents and thus be unable to do their jobs without judicial immunity.  Attorney Kor proposed that if AMCs didn't obtain immunity, such attorneys would be so afraid of reprisals they wouldn't be able to do their jobs.  He proposed that "to deny the protection of immunity would exert a chilling effect on all court-appointed attorneys for minor children." 

Of course, reading that statement, I dwell on the word "would", indicating the future.  Is Attorney Kor implying that the chilling effect would only happen in the future because it hasn't happened in the past?  I would have loved to have seen the actual statistics in the decade leading up to the Carrubba v. Moskowitz decision--was there a paucity of Attorneys For the Minor Child at that time because of ongoing chilling effects that resulted from disgruntled and angry parents?  Was the Children's Law Center dangling on the brink of extinction because of this chilling effect?  

Somehow I doubt that. 

It is so easy, particularly within the context of a lawsuit to make unfounded statements because they sound good.  I often wish that judges could have as great an understanding as family court victims do in regard to how cheap talk is, particularly without evidence. 

Finally, Prong 3 asks the question of whether there is any recourse when an AMC goes rogue and acts negligently or maliciously.  According to the Defendant there were options.  For example, Paul Carrubba could have gone to the judge and ask to have the AMC removed.  Of course, Mr. Carrubba did that, but was summarily turned down. 

Anyone who has gone through a difficult divorce knows that a Trial Judge will never disqualify a Guardian Ad Litem or An Attorney for the Minor Child no matter how disruptive, negligent and unethical their behavior is.  Somehow judges are able to redefine the horrendous actions of negligent GALs and AMCs and redefine them as insignificant. 

thus, if you look how the Supreme Court decision, you will see how it redefines Paul Carrubba's complaint against Attorney Emily Moskowitz for spouting profanity and lying as merely "express[ing] dissatisfaction with the manner in which the defendant carried out her court-appointed role." 

Wow, if that's all that is, well, ok. 

The same goes for Statewide Grievance.  A family court litigant will never get satisfaction by submitting a complaint to Statewide Grievance even when there are criminal actions involved. 

So what these Supreme Court Judges did in going through the three prong test, particularly when it comes to the final prong is provide a fully developed piece of verbal nonsense in order to open the door to even more exploitation and family court corruption by granting absolute judicial immunity to Attorneys For the Minor Child. 

That panel of judges--Borden, Norcott, Katz, Palmer and Vertefeuille--who wrote the decision, in my opinion, knew exactly what they were doing, the havoc they would wreak by granting absolute quasi-judicial immunity to AMCs, and they did it anyway.  This is why we so desperately need to make sure that Bill #5505 is passed in the legislature this year, to begin to repair the harm and damage that has been done to so many families as the result of these irresponsible and improper decisions.

Before I close this discussion, I do want to mention that Paul Carrubba also filed a negligence complaint on behalf of his son, Mathew Carrubba, acting as a "next friend".  I didn't go into this subject as extensively as the issue of AMC judicial immunity.  However, I do think it is worth mentioning that all the way down the line, from superior court, to appellate court, and finally on the supreme court level, Paul Carrubba was essentially denied the right to pursue an action on behalf of his child. 

Specifically, the Supreme Court determined that during a dissolution action, the child's interests are assumed to diverge automatically from that of the parents and so, therefore, Paul Carrubba lacked standing.  The Amicus Brief quoted Linda D. Elrod's article "Raising the Bar for Lawyers Who Represent Children" stating that "Only the child should have any right of any action against a 'Child's Attorney' or a "Best Interest Attorney'". 

So, how exactly is a child supposed to do this?  Is this just another one of those weird half-baked things that attorneys say in order to sideline common sense?

I cannot be sure. But one thing I do know, it is time to restore sanity to our Connecticut Family Court System.  It is time GALs and AMCs were held accountable, and it is time that the CT Judicial Branch stopped trashing parents who know far more than any paid professional who just met them what is in the best interests of their children.