Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Would you hand over $2500 to a stranger?
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.