Wednesday, May 30, 2012

From the Portland Press Hearld May 30, 2012

Our View: Court holding hearing on guardian ad litem reform

There are enough complaints to warrant a review of this vital child welfare program.

The toughest legal cases are family cases heard in district courts across Maine. Behind closed doors, decisions that profoundly affect children and their parents are decided, and at least one party is sure to walk away unhappy.
This week, the guardian ad litem program will be the subject of a rare public hearing before Maine's Chief Justice Leigh Ingalls Saufley.
We encourage anyone to attend this meeting to share your views and thoughts on this topic. You do not have to make a statement.  This is an important meeting regarding guardian ad litem reform and we need your support. 
Location:  Maine Supreme Judicial Court 205 Newbury Street, Portland, ME 

Phone for more information: (207) 822-4146

   Date     May 31, 2012
   Time     4:00 PM

The court is scheduling a meeting for Thursday, May 31 at 4 pm in the Cumberland County Courthouse to hear from interested parties and the public.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Would you hand over $2500 to a stranger?

What do you know about your Guardian ad litem?

A Guardian a litem has been appointed to be a part of your custody case. Here is a stranger that is invading your life in the name of your child's best interest. This person is going to be making life altering decisions and recommendations to the court that will impact your life and that of your child for years to come.

What can you find out in Maine about this person's background and professional standing as a GAL?


You have to accept on faith that this person is going to perform their job  as a GAL competently. You are going into this deal blind, because in many states there is not currently any form of oversight, accountability or consumer protection when using a GAL's service.

One simple and effective measure of GAL quality and accountability would be for the Judicial branch to post online, any complaint or action against a GAL. This might be for something as mundane as not fulfilling the continuing education hours, to more serious complaints on the family and superior court levels.

New Hampshire is one state that does this. New Hampshire also lists on the court's rosters whether or not a GAL is under suspension. Although this approach is not perfect it does allow the consumer to know whether or not there have been past actions against  a GAL and for what reason. It allows the consumer to decide whether or not being late on continuing education is a deal breaker for example. Or if there are other reasons or actions that might make you question whether or not this GAL will be a good fit. It gives the consumer the ability to make choices and to do so from an informed perspective.

There is no consumer protection for the user of GAL services in many states. There is plenty of legal liability protection for the GALs themselves who operate in a very protected legal environment. The Judicial branch of many states needs to be using some standard data management tool for holding GALs accountable by giving consumers online warning signals about a GALs past performance. Making their past record transparent and public is one way of doing this.

Otherwise - with no public information - the Judicial branch risks marketing a defective or substandard product to the public - Again.