Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa - They Are All From Kids Who Want BOTH Parents

While the cartoon is meant to make light of the Family Court debacle – there is a huge amount of truth in the message.

In many cases throughout the state and country we have heard stories of parents being ripped away from their children by our courts. These are parents who are solid citizens, who have no background of drug or alcohol abuse. No history of mental illness. They do have a love for their children and fight for them when things appear wrong.

For this they are often punished. Take for instance the case of Dalton v Dalton which went before the Supreme Court of Maine. With this case the lawyer actually represented the client – and fought for Sarah Dalton. The opening brief slammed the Guardian ad litem and the Family Court Judge on the case (it should be noted that the ‘judge’ in question went on to get a promotion back in April. This promotion is not related to this case). The brief sited case law as to why the court was in error. In the end it came down to aggressive lawyering on the part of Sarah’s lawyer as being bad. The complaint on the GAL and ‘judge’ was wiped clean and the mother who was fighting for her children was punished as was the lawyer.

We heard from a mother who earns at the poverty level – pays the GAL bill and pays child support to her ex (who it should be noted allegedly works for a family business and is paid under the table. He has managed to purchase a brand new truck and lives in a house that cost over $350.000.00. The reportedly earns in the neighborhood of $5000.00 - it is amazing that someone in an income this low would be given the credit needed for the house and truck). She went back to court to try and get some relief from the crushing financial burden she has been encumbered with. The 'judge' (who it should be noted is one of the four worse in the state told this mother that because she earns more than the father she is responsible for payment. To add insult to injury the 'judge' took even more time away from the little she has with her kids. It should be noted that the mother is still struggling to make ends meet.

Then there is the father who has fought for his son against all odds. He is up against one of the worst judges in the state (this judge is different than the one mentioned above but is one of four who are the worst in the state). He has no history of mental illness nor does he use or abuse drugs or alcohol (it should be noted though that his ex does). Yet he has had to go through a battery of mental health and parenting tests – his ex has not - at a huge cost to him. He has been stripped financially and is working two jobs to meet the child support requirements - his ex does not work. He is living as close to poverty as one could without actually being in poverty. To add insult to injury he has had his son all but stripped away from his life – to the point where on the few occasions he has had contact with his child – the child cries because he misses his father.

The list – and the pain – goes on. Every parent should have the opportunity to be a part of their child’s life. Every divorce should start off with the idea that the custody is going to be 50/50 and that one or both parent(s) will lose or gain from there. If one side suggest the other needs testing – then both parents should be tested. There should be an equitable balance between the two halves of the divorcing family. It is not a game to be played out with the children as the prize. The only reason why a child should have limited and tempered time with one parent or another if there is cause for that. This should be based not on some ambiguous and ill-defined standard such as “the best interest of the child” standard. But on a standard which can be measured and tested – we like the term “is the child safe”. Is a child safe in the house of a drug addict with mental health issues? Or with a parent who holds down a job and contributes to the family? Is the child safe in an ever changing environment? Or one where a parent has lived for years?

In 2015 we hope that there will be more even-handed division of a child's time of divorcing families between their parents. A child needs the wisdom of both parents and their families. Not to be limited to one. That will only come about if the current family court changes or goes away.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Thank you for following us on Facebook and out blogs. Please feel free to contact us at or call us at 207-370-9801. We hope you can join us in 2015 to bring about legislative change. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Divorce Corp - Backdoor Deals and Cozy Relationships between GALs and Judges

Director Joe Sorge (DivorceCorp) interviews Maine psychiatrist and director of Maine Guardian Ad Litem Alert, Jerry Collins. They discuss the backdoor deals and cozy relationships between the guardian ad litems (GALs) and other family court professionals. Families are forced to pay outrageous fees and often get little for their money.

Learn how Guardians ad litem demand excessive fees and are essentially unregulated in their practice. It is another shocking example of the corrupt practices in US family courts.

DivorceCorp - Family Law Report: Jerry Collins Interview Part1

If you would like more information and become involved email us at or find us on Facebook.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Georgia - Who guards the guardians?

Change the name of the state and this article can be applied to anywhere in the country. There are some great lines - especially towards the end of the article. Please note that you may have to answer a survey (1 question) in order to read the whole article.

The Augusta Chronicle

Are Guardians ad litem indispensable legal advocates, or court-sanctioned opportunists out for a buck?

It can be hard to tell based on how some guardians are conducting themselves in domestic-relations cases in the Augusta Judicial Circuit.

A recent review of more than 5,000 cases by The Augusta Chronicle revealed a concerning number of instances where GALs submitted questionable invoices with little or no supporting documentation to litigants in divorce and child-custody matters.

And at a minimum rate of $65 an hour, it doesn’t take long for their court-ordered services to generate hundreds – sometimes thousands – of dollars in non-negotiable fees for families by the time their cases are resolved in Richmond and Columbia counties.

To make matters worse, some of the GALs most commonly appointed by local judges appear to be padding invoices by charging for visits and phone calls they never made. One father, for example, said his GAL, Janet Weinberger, handed him a $1,400 bill that included a $26 charge for a field visit to his daughter’s elementary school that there’s no evidence of, and a $65 phone call that appears to never have been made.

In most lines of work, such practices wouldn’t be tolerated, and might even be punished.

Worse yet, divorcing parents have reported that guardians ad litem were quite heavy-handed in collecting payment, giving very little time and no leeway for strapped budgets.

In short, the poorly regulated Guardian ad litem program seems to be adding unnecessary stress to the divorce process in Augusta.

Full story: The Augusta Chronicle

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Connecticut - I'm hoping that the four hours I spent in jail - may make a difference

Many thanks Jerry!  This has been a very important week here in this state in the area of family court reform.

In summary:

In 2009, I was forced under the threat of imprisonment to liquidate my sons' college funds to pay a corrupt GAL who did nothing to help my sons. $28,000 was paid to this GAL –  who did next to nothing.

In March of 2012, we had another incident where my ex-wife abused my sons, one of whom has autism - all of it captured on police station surveillance video. I approached the family court with this video and asking them to help me protect my sons - but I did not want my ex-wife to have no contact, because I didn't believe that was needed or that it would be beneficial to my sons.

A new GAL was assigned to my case, and she immediately demanded I seek full physical custody - which I explained to her would not help my sons, especially the one with autism, and was not needed. They needed to see their mother and I had no right to interfere with that relationship – I just wanted her to follow court orders and to be able to make decisions in their actual best interests. Upon hearing this, the GAL cut off all contact with me and ignored me, while continuing to completely ignore ongoing violations of court orders by the ex-wife and as she worked to cover up yet another incident of abuse of my sons.

This GAL billed $26,000 for spending less than three hours with my sons, which neither I nor my ex-wife could afford to pay. I already took out everything I could from my retirement to pay her and my attorneys. I found out recently that my ex-wife was forced to sign over the child support checks I gave her to this GAL - who has no children of her own and has never raised a child. She has never practiced family law. She is not even registered to do business in this state.

Last October, the court issued orders finding that I was right – that my ex abused my sons. And then without a required financial hearing, or any motion before the court asking it make changes, the judge doubled my child support, ordered I pay 2/3 of the GAL’s fees and $7,500 to my ex’s attorney.  In essence, financially rewarding my ex for abusing my sons.

In October, this GAL, without any prior compliant or notice, ran to court and demanded that the court order my ex and I to pay her everything we owed her, immediately. My ex worked out a sweetheart deal, because her attorney is also a GAL and a member of the AFCC. They garnished her wages at $50/week.

For me - the head of our state courts' "Family Commission" targeted me. The now FORMER GAL, who withdrew from our case, filed a Motion for Contempt, hired an attorney to threaten and harass me with jail if I didn’t pay, and issued a subpoena seeking all of my bank statements.

All of this was completely illegal, unconstitutional and without any basis in state law, regulation or the Practice Book. Because the now FORMER GAL, had no standing in my family case to file or do anything.

All of this fell on deaf ears as Judge Bozzuto worked to railroad me to jail as quickly as possible. All of our motions were ignored, the fact that we had two appeals that stayed everything, was ignored. Due process and the proper scheduling and hearing of motions, was ignored.

On November 21st, without me being present as I had to care for my sons, Judge Bozzuto walked into a hearing with orders already in hand. She came into the courtroom with hanging orders - she talked for SIX PAGES of the transcript without either counsel saying a word or having an opportunity to be heard. She made up “facts” and made comments about me that had no basis in any evidence before the court. She focused only on what I was bringing home and now the draconian costs the court imposed on me – which made it mathematically impossible to pay what was ordered and to care for my sons.

She issued a capias against me with a $9,600 purge, which no attorney who saw it could believe or ever saw before. I spent a night in a hotel room to avoid a marshal and being arrested and taken away in front of my sons and family.

After hiring a new attorney, we negotiated with the marshals to have me turn myself in this past Wednesday morning, and with a 60 Minutes camera crew filing the event. This so my sons would not be impacted, as on Wednesdays they go back to my mother.  Prior to this, we lived in constant fear that a marshal would knock on the door and take me away - leaving no one to be able to care for my sons, especially my son with autism.

On Wednesday morning, I was handcuffed and put in leg shackles. I was paraded into court in front of Judge Bozzuto, whose first words were her surprise and amazement that after two weeks I couldn't come up with the $9,600 purge amount.

My attorney fired back, and informed her that she had no legal standing or authority to have me incarcerated. As an expert in appeals, her forcefully cited state law and the Practice Book - illustrating that as we had two pending appeals, everything at the trial court level was automatically stayed, and what she did in allowing the contempt hearings to continue, was illegal.

After some very tense moments where she threatened the attorney, she said she wanted to review the case and continued it for the next day. She ordered me released - but there was even a moment where she left it unclear as to whether I was still incarcerated or not.

The next day, in front of news media, with 60 Minutes sitting in the courtroom, and many supportive parents and court watchers, she backed down. She agreed to wait until the Appeal's ruled on the appeals and "temporarily vacated" the capias against me.


What is before the Appeal's Court, for the very first time, is the question of whether the GAL's fees are attorney's fees or "in the nature of child support." If they are attorney's fees, I win and the GAL will have no option other than to go across the street and pursue her fees in civil court - where this belongs. If this is ruled as support payments, then I lose, and the question becomes why aren't the GALs payments added as part of the child support guidelines worksheet?

We also filed a federal lawsuit against the judge, the GAL and her attorney - citing violations of my Constitutional rights and state and federal debt collection laws.

I'm hoping that the four hours I spent in jail - may make a difference.

Peter Szymonik

Glastonbury, CT

The Court Documents relating to Peter Szymonik's case:

2013 -
2013-08-17 Invoice for Professional Services Rhonda Morra

2014 -
2014 Payment History of Rhonda Morra Guardian ad litem Bill
2014-10-17 Fax from Teller of Contempt
2014-11-14 Invoice for Professional Services Rhonda Morra
2014-11-21 Judge E Bozzuto Orders

National Guardian ad litem Alert (NatGALert) supports Peter in what he is trying to accomplish in Connecticut. Peter has been in the forefront of Family Court reform in that state. If you have been threatened by your Guardian ad litem we encourage you to contact us at of find us on Facebook.

Phone 207-370-9801 (open 24/7)

Georgia - What did judges know about guardian ad litem issues?

This should not come as a surprise that judges - people whom many of us were taught to show respect for the position they hold. Have complaints filed against them. In Georgia - a state that has huge problems with their family courts - we have a situation where a judge (Daniel Craig) is being investigated


We're following up on complaints against guardians ad litem in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, including those made against former magistrate judge Doug Nelson and longtime guardian Janet Weinberger.

We now know the Judicial Qualifications Committee is investigating what superior court judge Daniel Craig may have know about complaints against Nelson. The JQC annual report said in 2013, 75% of complaints against Georgia judges were rejected. But a letter from the JQC shows they are looking into these cases.

After hearing the JQC was getting involved – we wanted to know what the superior court judges who appoint and control these guardians know about the complaints?

Judge Daniel Craig presided over multiple cases in which mothers revealed to WFXG accusations that Doug Nelson was inappropriate with them while working on their cases.

Nelson has denied all allegations of wrong-doing.

Full story: Fox 6 WBRC

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Should I Be Part of a Class Action Suit Against My Guardian ad litem?

Recently there was talk about doing a class action suit against a particular Guardian ad litem. Three years ago I would have been in favor of something like that. Today not so in light of all of the actions brought against Guardians ad litem in the state. In 10 years there have been numerous complaints filed against Guardians ad litem with the Head Judge (this does not even take into consideration the complaints filed at the lower court). Out of about 150 complaints initiated by consumers do you know how many were successful in correcting/ removing the Guardian ad litem


Well there were two removed by the courts because of mental health issues but those were not initiated by consumers (I stand corrected). As a consumer interested in filing a complaint at the highest level you would be better off investing in the lottery. You stand a far better chance of getting a result (any result) from the purchase of a lottery ticket than you would in court.

In three years little has been accomplished in courts - rolling the dice and playing by their rules. They (the courts and divorce industry) hold the cards. On the other hand there is no reason holding us back from playing with a different set of rules a different deck of cards. Think Different.......

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Oklahoma - $1 billion divorce settlement 'disappointing'

For those who have to pay support be thankful you are not this guy. Would anyone turn down 1% of this settlement? This case is unbelievable - give it a read.

CNN Money
Sometimes a billion dollars just isn't enough.

Sue Ann Hamm, the former wife of oil billionaire Harold Hamm, plans on appealing an Oklahoma court ruling earlier this week which awarded her nearly $1 billion in the couples' divorce.

Mrs. Hamm, 58, contends the award is not fair. The couple were married for 26 years, have two children and had no prenuptial agreement. As of August, Mr. Hamm was worth over $20 billion, according to Wealth-X.

"Sue Ann is disappointed in the outcome of this case," said her lawyer Ron Barber. "She dedicated 25 years as Harold's faithful partner in family and business."

As part of the settlement, Mrs. Hamm will be paid a third of the $995.5 million by the end of the year. Her ex-husband is on a payment plan for the remaining $650 million, which he will pay in installments of at least $7 million per month.

Mrs. Hamm, a lawyer and economist, held executive positions at Mr. Hamm's oil company, Continental Resources (CLR).

Full Story: CNN Money

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maine - Lawyers, Divorce Industry Like Mike - Should You?

We try to stay clear of partisan politics. After all, children's welfare in divorce and custody shouldn't be a partisan issue. So we try to remain "non-partisan",

BUT ...

Quite frankly, from the perspective of our Family Court, and Guardian ad litem (GAL) reform concerns, we "Don't like Mike" - that is Mike Michaud, one of ( 3 ) candidates running for Governor of Maine. In fact we would say to our GAL and Family Court reform friends, "Vote for anyone else for Governor, but not Mike!"

It's nothing personal, Mike, its your "special interest" lawyer friends, supporters and the fundraisers who we don't like! It is Maine's divorce industry that is "hell bent for election," divorce bar lawyers raising money for "Mike" like it is going out of style and the other, so - called "impartial" divorce industry people silently cheering for "Mike". They are hoping that he wins and that his gratitude for their support will preserve the very lucrative 'status quo' in our creaky, old, dysfunctional, Family Courts.

ASK YOURSELF - WHY DOES THE DIVORCE INDUSTRY SO AVIDLY SUPPORT MIKE MICHAUD? Why are lawyers, law firms and the judicial branch supporting Mike? The financial investment they are making in Mike Michaud is an investment in keeping the family court as we know it. It is an investment in their retirements, their children's education and their way of life.

Take a look at some of Mikes supporters:

Michael Asen Esq (MittelAsen) - has helped fund raise for Mike on several occasions - 07/25/2014; 08/11/2014; 08/14/2014;

Michael Asen Esq has also been quoted by the Portland Press Herald as saying “My highest priority is making sure we don’t have another four years of this governor.” in an August 12, 2014 posting and referring to Gov. Paul LePage. Remember Gov. Paul LePage signed the Dutremble bill LD 872 "An Act To Improve the Quality of Guardian ad Litem Services for the Children and Families of Maine" which the Judicial Branch hated as did lawyers and Guardians ad litem. Michael Asen Esq is also the chair of fund raising for Maine lawyers who like "Mike".

Diane Dusini Esq (MittelAsen) - has helped raise money for Mike on at least one occasion - 08/11/2014. It should be noted that is also the President of the Maine Bar.

WHY DO THEY LIKE "MIKE"?  You can bet that it isn't just out of the goodness of their hearts, and it isn't because the divorce bar wants our kind of Family Court or Guardian ad litem reform.  They expect that "Mike's" "pay back" for their financial bucks will be strong support for the "divorce bar".  Keep lawyer privilege!  Keep our family courts as they are - a gold mine for lawyers and the Divorce Industry. Keep consumers out of this unregulated "industry".  "Mike" has a political  reputation for being an obedient,  good, ol boy. The divorce bar and their good friend, Senate President Justin Alfond ( 07/21/2014; 08/11/2014; 09/23/2014 ), are banking on a tight relationship with "Mike". Alfond is reported to have already told Senators in his caucus, enough already with GAL reform; the lawyers don't like it!

WE'D BET THAT MANY WITHIN THE JUDICIAL BRANCH ARE ALSO SILENTLY SUPPORTING  "MIKE" TOO (and not just their "prayers and good wishes"!). He is their kind of guy; supporting the interests of the "divorce industry" and will not supporting Family Court or GAL reform - just exactly as they are.

DO YOU SUPPORT THE "DIVORCE INDUSTRY"? A vote for "Mike" supports the divorce industry and perpetuates our victim hood in Family Courts. Use you precious vote thoughtfully, carefully and in the best interest of our children. Your vote can make a difference. Please, friends, anyone but "Mike" for Governor of Maine, please!

We'd also say, check out where our candidates for the Maine Senate and House of Representatives stand on our reform issues. We're splitting our vote on these candidates depending on whether they support our family court and GAL reform positions. For us, it's not about Republican or Democrat; we call ourselves "Childocrats"!


NationalGALert is a grassroots organization and like minded people who have a vested interest in the states Family Court process and reform. Please feel free to contact us at or find us on Facebook.

Friday, July 4, 2014

National - What Would You Do if You Were A Guardian ad litem?

Imagine you are a Guardian ad litem tasked with making a recommendation on a case and you have the following to deal with:

One member has just accused the other of molesting the child of this divorcing family. You recommend that the accused has only supervised visits with this child. The Family Court Judge backs up your recommendation.

But there is a twist

You see the accused has another child with another partner. What do you do?

1. You do nothing - that child is not a party to the divorce.
2. You recommend that the accused parent can only have supervised contact with both children because that parent poses a threat to both of them.
3. You have Child Protective Services come in and determine whether or not the accused is really a threat.

Tell us what you would do - Either add a comment here or click this link which opens up in a new TAB or window.

The results will be published on Monday 7/8/2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

National - According to Family Court - Field Trip to Bar Late at Night is Good for Child

File this under lack of Common Sense within the Family Court System -

As a parent if your four year old child came to you and told you she was scared of being in a situation your ex put her in what would you do? If your child was taken to an adult environment, a bar, late at night where there was loud music, alcohol and intoxicated adults involved. What would you do?  Would it make a difference if you were involved in a divorce and custody battle? It might.

Most parents would try to take some kind of protective action for their child. If a Guardian ad litem was involved – you would complain to them; after all, that is what they are put in place for. Clearly a child (no matter what the age) being put into an inappropriate adult situation is not in the child’s best interest. Nor does the child feel emotionally safe in these situations. Common sense would dictate that this child (or any child) should be protected and removed from this situation or environment.

The child in question told her father that she felt scared being in the bars to which she was taken by her mother. She witnessed fights and yelling, and her mom's boyfriend being pushed around. “Bad words” were often being said between people. When the father brought this to the Guardian ad litem's attention (the person who is supposed to be looking out for the best interest of this child) – the Guardian ad litem stated that the father simply did not trust that his four year old daughter was in good hands. The father, concerned for his daughters safety, continued to make his point and express his concern. His concern was not taken seriously by the Guardian ad litem. Instead of investigating whether or not the situation of a child’s late night visit to bars was good for the child, this Guardian ad litem continued to blame the father for trying to cause trouble.

How are we to believe, as this Guardian ad litem and the Judge would seem to be doing, that this little girl's 'best interest' was served by late night visits to bars that she found frightening? What about the child's emotional  safety? Is this kind of place a good moral environment for children? To say the least of what this child is learning from the experience? We would say that common sense was not used by the child’s mother nor by the Guardian ad litem for that matter. Sadly, this type of poor judgment is frequently seen with quite a number of Guardians ad litem nationally. Examples like this are the reason why there is now - and has been - a very real need for Guardian ad litem and Family Court reform.

NationalGALert is a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting parents who have been abused by the family court system. In addition we educate and promote reform through legislation - both here in Maine as well as nationally. We would encourage you to contact us at and tell us your story. In addition we may be found on Facebook.

The Power of the Powerless - 2012 by NationalGALert

Family Court Survey - We want your opinion regarding the experience you had in Family Court.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Basic Tool Kit for Grass Roots Family Court Reform

We have been asked by many people how we got NationalGALalert, our Family Court and GAL reform program, started and what beginning grassroots activists should do to get going?  We grew our program, NationalGALalert by stages and degrees, learning by trial and error as we grew.  We quickly set two fixed goals: (1) education of the public about the need for reform of family courts and Guardians ad litem, and (2) legislation to produce change.  We feel that you can’t have legislated change for these dysfunctional systems without an enlightened, aware public that will support and push for change.  Legislation also requires that we  educate legislators about the family court and Guardian ad litem problems, and also that we help voters connect with legislators and- as constituents/voters - express their views and their wishes.  Family court systems  are not anything that can be “fixed” quickly, because there are huge systemic problems and powerful internal forces that support  the dysfunction of family courts, and that keep dysfunction alive, well and growing.  Long ago, we were instructed by one sophisticated  lawyer: “Follow the money!”

What we are outlining is a well planned systems intervention in a massive system, and it cannot be done quickly or without a well designed strategy and tactics, nor can these be effective without tools for intervention in all parts of the system. Obviously, this is a complex undertaking.  We are always glad to share our thoughts and our approach, but to do so would take more than a simple, single blog posting.  We’ll start by giving a brief list of important generic systems intervention “must have”  “tools” that you may find useful in changing family court systems:

1. A blog or two (or more) with different focuses that will serve multiple purposes: give news, present issues and problems, make proposals for change and allow for public "conversations".

2. A Facebook page dedicated to court reform in your state, which can present more short-term "reform news" and sharing.

3. Building a base of credible political supporters, larger numbers of both friends and “victims” of the family court system.  E-mail addresses (and list-servs) for this group are critical, precious, invaluable .  One rule to follow: ALWAYS BLIND COPY (bcc)  MASS MAILINGS FOR PRIVACY).  Telephone numbers and physical addresses are useful also.  We started with our family court story (disaster) in a local weekly paper that got the attention of other family court “victims” who contacted us - and the rest is history as the numbers grew and grew.

4. Once you get stared, a core group of friends with a "work ethic", who can be counted on to help with some of the "heavy lifting".  Volunteer manpower, which can stay on top of what's happening in state government that may impact on users of family courts.

5. Getting to know your State Rep and State Senator and continuously educating them on the court reform issues is critical.  Getting to know other legislators, especially those who have gone through divorce and custody horrors.  “Victims” of family courts in the legislature are “golden”.  You also need to know which legislators are your enemies and “frenemies” , Which legislators will sabotage your efforts and support the ‘status quo’?  HINT: look for legislators who are lawyers!

6. Getting to know your state Governor and your Chief Justice.   Governors can submit bills and can veto bills, but they too need education.  Justices often want changes in the courts but they are constrained by their political base: the state bar and state lawyers who live handsomely off of family courts.  They hear appeals form family courts and their judgments become case law.

7. Building relations with the all elements of the media.  Know reporters, feed them stories.  Many court reporters are intimidated about journalistically challenging the courts and getting “shut out” of court news thereafter, but sometimes your news may tempt them out of timidity.  Small, local, weekly papers, we find, are most open to reporting our experience - and people do read them. Give them stories. This got us going.  Don’t forget social media in all of its many forms.

8. Organize intimate, small showings of "Divorce Corp", the DVD, it is very educational, packs a punch and ought to be a "must see" for legislators and government decision makers.  It is a great “tool” for quick information and attitude change.

9. Make your most important goal: public education about the largely unknown scandal that is family courts in America. Without extensive education of the public you go nowhere.

10. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep everyone who writes to support you in the loop, up on the news - good and bad. Answer ALL e-mails asap.

11. Don't worry about money or setting up a nonprofit.  We've done it with no money and no corporation. Money and non-profits have their own problems and politics. We've done it with PEOPLE, who are FRIENDS. The most successful movement that produced massive political change was created by Vaclav Havel, former, Czech president, Nobel prize winner, writer and political dissident.

Finally, don't be discouraged by setbacks.  It is going to be a long term project. Family courts have solid support of a huge, wealthy industry ($50 billion), the “divorce industry”, these lawyers, like the “robber barons” of old, are not going to yield quickly or easily. But ... we have human and moral "right" on our side, and, once we connect, there are more of US than there are of THEM! Vaclav Havel called it “The power of the powerless”.

In the long run, if we keep at it , like others before us who fought injustice...


NationalGALalert can be reached by emailing us at or by finding us on Facebook. There is no magic bullet that can be used to help you with the issues you and your family are facing. We offer support and help in dealing with the family court system.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Missouri - Alicia Napalan - Money means custody in Family Courts

By Alicia Napalan
West Plains, Missouri

Recently I went through a divorce. I was unable to afford an attorney, while my ex-husband was. I was denied legal aid, twice, due to a lack of funds. My husband was granted full custody of my four year old son. I have one weekend of supervised visitation. I have to pay him $100 per each visitation. As well as $3500 for his attorneys fees in 60 days. All because I was expected to have the same amount of knowledge in representing myself as someone who spent years in law school. I have a job, a car, my own place, I don't do drugs, and my son wasn't abused. Clearly, justice can't be done when one party is represented while the other is not.

In the large amount of time I spent in court, I saw crying mothers over and over, asking the judge what to do, and repeating that they can't afford an attorney. And the judge is only allowed to respond with, "you are expected to know, if you represent yourself. I cannot give you legal advice." The Legal Service Corporation is largely responsible for the funding for state legal aid programs. Even though the budget is 350 million, with supplemental funding from LSC, the total amount of legal aid available for civil cases is still grossly inadequate.

According to LSC's widely released 2005 report "Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans", all legal aid offices nationwide, LSC-funded or not, are together able to meet only about 20 percent of the estimated legal needs of low-income people in the United States.

I lost custody of my child, because I could not do enough research on my own, to stand up against an attorney who had been in practice for years. Hard solid evidence I had was not accepted by the judge because a lack of foundation. 90% of what came out of my mouth was objected to. All on top of the fact that I have social anxiety, and fear of speaking to people and crowds.

I'm requesting that Congress grant more funding for LSC so that more low income families may have a chance at justice. So those extra funds can trickle down to all State Legal Aid programs. It wasn't a piece of furniture I was fighting for. It was my child. And I lost him because I lack funds.

I'm terrified of the emotional Impact It will have on my child being away from me. If I miss my deadline to pay for my visitation, my ex-husband refuses to let me see him. And its getting increasingly harder to make that deadline because he is garnishing my wages for the attorneys fees the judge granted I pay him. I believe with an increase in funding for legal aid services, more families will have a chance at justice, and be spared the same hardships I'm going through.

Alicia Napalan can be found on Facebook. Alicia represents a significant problem that is growing daily. Access to Justice within the Family Court system. The national average of 'Pro se' representation is over 50% with some states over 75% of parents representing themselves (Maine 74%, Connecticut 82% and New York at 85%). This is a two tiered system of justice between the haves (those who are able to afford legal representation) and the have not's (those who are not able to afford representation). NationalGALalert is trying to bring about reform to the Family Court system. If you are interested in helping then please contact us at of like us on Facebook.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Maine - An appeal to Maine's Supreme Court: Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521 - the Final Dance

The final installment in the appeal to Maine's Supreme Court of Dalton V Dalton - Maloney response to Bixby


By our reading, the Maloney reply to Bixby’s response is a lot easier for a non-lawyer to follow and to understand. It is a coherent narrative. It tells a very sad story clearly. It is about how a mother has been strategically demonized by her opponents, and how the impact of this demonization has influenced the judge's custody decision. It presents Ms Dalton as the victim of a “railroad job” with several of the court players appearing far from “impartial”. The brief offers examples of flaws in the information gathering process and of the Guardian ad litem (GAL) in this case operating outside of the boundaries of “Rules for GALs”.  Maloney is knocking on the door of the court for equal parent time, which is a position that we, as family court reformers, endorse for every child custody case in a divorce, unless there is proven child abuse. They key word is “proven”.  There is no proof that we can see in this family court case - for good reason.  It would (or should) remove the case to criminal court.

We ask, “So why ever is a family court dealing with alleged child abuse?  Isn’t it outside of their mandate, their skills?” Child abuse is a crime. A claim of child abuse should have a criminal investigation and be tried in a criminal court with a jury, if there is evidence. “Strategic” claims of abuse should be tossed out of family courts; particularly, if the criminal investigation of such claims has already yielded a big, fat  “zero”! Without hard facts soft allegations of abuse constitute a cruel “witch hunt”. We also feel that various forms of court prescribed therapy and parental training, which are mostly without scientific grounding, ought to be tossed out too, as more beneficial to the service provider’s pocketbook that to the recipient of service’s psyche.

In Ms Dalton’s case, it is unclear whether anyone has actually diagnosed a problem for which - despite no diagnosis -  she is nonetheless being treated?  Nor does there seem to be a clear aim or endpoint which would say she has passed the test and can now be a “card-carrying” parent,  So the court and the opposing lawyer  keep the treatment for unspecified problems just rolling along - perhaps forever?  Treatment for the “bad” parent, parent counseling for the “bad” parent, supervised visits for the “bad” parent are part of the family court and family lawyer’s strategic games  that keep the process going on forever with no goals.  All done in the name of “the child’s best interest”, until the money runs out!  It is a cruel travesty that should stop.

Even Maloney in her response to Bixby bows to this hideous “game” when she says that Ms Dalton is “showing progress” with these junk therapy efforts.  “Progress” in what, compared to what, to what end?  As non-lawyers, who don’t have to play the courtroom game, we’d prefer to hit head-on  this bogus therapy for an unspecified  condition, with no visible end point.  Ms Dalton doesn’t need any of it to rein in her imaginary alleged intense child abuse impulses.  It is a disconnected prescription for therapy for no named condition “discovered” as an opportunity by an opposing  divorce lawyer.  And it is a stereotyped strategy used all over America.  A lawyer spots a lucrative opportunity to get a client on a treadmill from which there is no exit.  No end until the money runs out!

Reply brief of Appellant can be found here: Dalton v Dalton Final

If you have had problems in Family Court with a judge or Guardian ad litem please contact us at of find us on Facebook.

The first two briefs may be found here:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Maine - An appeal to Maine's Supreme Court: Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521 - the Lawyers Debate

We welcome this chance to publish the final two steps in an appeal to Maine's Supreme Court, the Dalton vs Dalton case. Step II, which follows here, is attorney Susan Bixby's reply to Beth Maloney's original brief.  Maloney’s brief, published here earlier, got the appeal process started. Step III is Maloney’s rebuttal of Bixby.

Along with our presentation here of the final two steps, we offer our layman’s observations and reactions to the 'arcana' of legal strategy used by these lawyers for a family court appeal.  Our non-expert, "grass roots" response to both pieces of writing is philosophical and common sense - not legal.  The philosophical flaws we see in both documents are about the basic human assumptions, the investigative process and the judicial decisions behind the  classic lawyerly strategies for how the "contentious divorce” (and its appeal) gets played.  For what it's worth, here is our personal take on the final two lawyerly exchanges in the Dalton v Dalton debate:


As we read it, Ms Bixby uses an all too common divorce strategy: to communicate by strong  inference that suburban housewife and mother of three children, Sarah Dalton, is a dangerous woman around children.  You may note that Bixby carefully comes close to the line of actually charging child abuse, but doesn't ever  cross it.  In her well designed response to the Maloney brief, Bixby strongly hints that, if Ms Dalton were left alone with her kids, God alone knows what bad - but unspecified - things might happen.  In tone it is all very subjunctive, speculative and scary.  She never crosses the line dividing hints of possible abuse from actual charges of abuse - for good reason.  It would end the family court hearings and - after investigation, might place the charge in criminal court, where a trial by jury would probably clear Ms Dalton of the "hints" of abuse issue.

Clearly, Ms Bixby's client , Mr. Dalton, is indirectly represented as wanting an “exclusive” - all of his children all of the time. No sharing. No concern about the children's need for a maternal parent. It is a hardball, legalistic "abuse game" right out of the movie, "Divorce Corp". Take no prisoners! The Bixby presentation raises the question in this reader's mind: "What exactly makes Ms Dalton 'unfit' as a mother , and after all of these years as a mother is she suddenly ‘nouveau’ abusive?"  And, another puzzle, why is she presented as, so far, being  immune to corrective therapy?  It is so stereotyped a legal strategy of demonizing a custody opponent as almost to be out of the tabloids!

Bixby, by her numerous claims that Maloney has ignored the "Rules of Evidence" more than implies that her legal opponent is dim and ignorant of how to use the "Rules of Evidence".  Tut tut!  As non-lawyers, what can we say?  The always meticulous, compulsive, detail-oriented Maloney, it is implied, needs to go back to the "Rules" book and bone up!  There is also an unmistakable hint from Bixby that Maloney needs lessons in legal etiquette and propriety. "Aggressive lawyering" is the operant phrase but there is more innuendo of absent professional refinement.

But read Part II, the Bixby reply and see what you think: Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521 Bixby's response.

To read the initial brief that was filed in February 2014 please follow this link: An appeal to Maine's Supreme Court: DaltonVs. Dalton CUM-13-521.

If you have had problems in Family Court with a judge or Guardian ad litem please contact us at of find us on Facebook.

gal, Guardian ad litem, family court, Dalton, child abuse, lawyers debate, divorce corp, jury

Friday, April 18, 2014

Connecticut - Marisa Ringel testimony to Supreme Court

Connecticut has had a string of hearings dealing with Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform. It is much needed there as it is in just about every state in the union. This following is written testimony that was presented to the Supreme Court in Hartford. While this parent speaks specifically to the rules for GALs in that state the general idea is one that can be applied in every court room.

This woman is saying that absent of any abuse or neglect - every parent should have a fundamental right to parent on an equal basis and that no parent should be forced into 'supervised visitation' absent of neglect or abuse. Yet how many parents are forced into that position by a Guardian ad litem or Family Court?

Supreme Court in Hartford
Public Hearing on Rules and Forms
Written Testimony of Marisa Ringel

April 14, 2014

Justices of the Supreme Court and/or Committee of Justices members:

I am hear today to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The 14th Amendment clearly states:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

In Stanley V. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 651; 92 S.Ct. 1208, (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court stressed:

“The parent-child relationship is an important interest that undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection. ..A parent’s interest in the companionship, care, custody and management of his or her children rises to a constitutionally secured right, given the centrality of family life as the focus for personal meaning and responsibility.”

It is my suggestion that the Connecticut Practice Book incorporate these two quotes to open Section 25.

Every parent, absent abuse or neglect, in the Constitution State should have a fundamental equal right to parent their children without the interference of government.

While there is legislative authority granted to provide for various awards of custody in the State of Connecticut, there does not appear to be any specific legislative authority for a judge in the State of Connecticut to force a parent into “supervised visitation” absent abuse or neglect.

Yet, in the family courts of the State of Connecticut, “supervised visitation” is often ordered without any justification that a “child’s welfare” is in danger.

Therefore, I am proposing a new Practice Book Rule 25-70:

“No judicial authority shall have the right to issue an order of supervised visitation without conducting an evidentiary hearing to establish whether there are grounds for an order to show cause that “clear and present danger to the physical/psychological well-being of a child” exists that requires an limited time order of supervised visitation.

No order of supervised visitation shall remain in place for more than three months, without conducting another evidentiary hearing at which any party can call witnesses, including those supervising the visitation, to report to the court on their observations of the parent-child interactions.”

There are reports in Fairfield County of supervised visitation which have been in place for more than two years, in which fees in excess of $20,000 have been paid by a parent to conduct a once a week four hour visitation.

Supervised visitation cannot be seen as a “first option” response from a judicial authority to make parenting time “unaffordable” or a “punitive measure”.

The 1886 Supreme Court decision in Yick Wo v. Hopkins 118 U.S. 356 stated:

“Law and court proceedings that are ‘fair on their faces’ but administered ‘with an evil eye or heavy hand’ was discriminatory and violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Family courts must provide divorced parent the same rights and obligations of their children as if still married.  Otherwise, the court is administrating a criteria in a manner which discriminates against a class of citizens based on “un-married status”.

Such discrimination by the family court judges against any class of citizens who are no longer married would constitute a violation of Title 42, Section 1983.

Each of us who is speaking today, is a victim of orders of “supervised visitation” at the current time or in some past order issued in the family court system in Connecticut.

Each of us has been and has always aspired to be a “fit parent” and have been “humiliated” and “degraded” by a family court judge who has abused their powers in administering family court justice through ordering “supervised visitation” without an order to show cause.

This authority to order supervised visitation has no statutory authority and is therefore an abuse of discretion and must be curtailed.

Marisa Ringel

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Will your online petition make people aware of the issue?

You are upset because the system has betrayed you - you want to take action and show that they are wrong, corrupt or biased. What do you do - get an online petition going to show the powers that there is a problem and that people back you up. Before you go to one of many sights that offer up online petitions are you prepared to do some hard thinking and ask yourself some difficult questions before posting that petition?

Some things to think about while you contemplate the idea:

GOALS: It is critically important to have clear aims for any petition.  Who are you petitioning?  Exactly what do you want them to do?  Do they have the legal power/authority to do it?  Are they apt to respond to an Internet petition?  Have they ever responded to a similar petition like yours before?  Have you tried other methods to solve the problem about which you are petitioning?

NUMBERS NEEDED? How many petitioners do you think you can get to sign your petition?  Beyond your family and friends are there a large number of people who understand the issues you are raising and who will back you because they share the  views you express in the petition?  How many signers will you need to have any significance?  For an in-state project, it might take several thousand signers before anyone takes notice.  For a national project you will need hundreds and hundreds of thousands.  You are aiming to make a grass roots statement of political power.  Can you get the numbers to "speak" power? How?  Large organizations and governments don't respond to midgets.

DEFAULT POSITION: If the petition falls flat- with little to no response or action- what is your fallback plan?  Shouldn't you have other ideas in mind, or do you just drop it?

RISK MANAGEMENT: What are the risks for you and others who might sign an Internet petition?  Have you run the petition idea by your lawyer and/or others with experience?  Is it well-written and clear; does it avoid name calling or slander?  Have you considered whether the petition will make matters better or worse?  What if it fails to get the desired response?  Will it improve or damage your image, your credibility, your thinking, your ideas, your original aim?  Are there legal ramifications that can come back to bite you and those who sign the petition?  If the petition fails in its expressed aims will there be backlash?  Will it infuriate others in the system you are petitioning - and cause them to close their ranks?

DISTRACTION: Is the petition a waste of time in the sense of being a time-consuming distraction from actual things you might do with less risk and greater potential payoff?  Are you avoiding the hard emotional work that might have greater benefit?

Getting 25 or 50 of your friends to sign your petition is probably useless. They are signing it just for that reason - being your friend or family member. On the other hand if you talk with 25 or 50 strangers of which some end up signing is in the end more beneficial to your cause. You have created an awareness of your issue which you can then build upon. To put it another way - a person in power can ignore hundreds or even thousands of signatures. It becomes harder though to ignore 25, 30 or more who are screaming at their door - writing letters and becoming involved in your cause.

REMEMBER: The American Revolutionary players tried unsuccessfully to petition King George.  The fallback position was the Committees of Correspondence and then the  Revolutionary War.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Maine - Child Custody - An appeal to Maine's Supreme Court: Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521

It isn’t often that most people have a chance to read an actual divorce and custody story that is being appealed to Maine’s Supreme Court, as we write this.  Child custody appeals are relatively rare. Most people, who might wish to appeal, are intimidated by the process; many are discouraged by lawyers, who don’t wish to offend a lower court judge by asking a higher court to intervene and correct a decision. Then, there is the huge amount of work involved and the not inconsiderable expense.

The process starts with a heartfelt disagreement with a lower court judgment and with the handling of the law in that court. It requires courage to challenge a family court judgment. It also always embodies a determined love of one’s child (children). In effect the appellant is very publicly saying - but in polite legal language - to the court, “You are dead wrong!  Your judgment is not only unfair but badly arrived at. The tools you are using and the reasoning process are seriously defective!  I strongly protest!”  How a skilled attorney approaches this problem and chooses the most important issues out of a welter of possible “plots, subplots and very involved stories” is a matter of legal judgment. Most of us, as parents and family would get lost in a morass of the details that go into a custody fight. The enclosed brief of this particular case demonstrates the vitally necessary partnership between lawyer and client. It is a union of “heart and courage” and ”head” - the level, focused intellectual crafting of the case essentials by a lawyer. It will be, I guarantee you, a most interesting and informative “read”.

We’ve been hearing from family members some of the unbelievable details of this case, Dalton vs Dalton, for just over a year. We have held our breath each time there has been a court hearing, hoping for fairness, for a reasonable turn of events, for a review of hard facts and for correction of a frightening nightmare of misperception being acted out in court. But the process seemed only to get worse as time went on. The extreme and inaccurate views of the court and a Guardian ad litem have, unfortunately, become ever more rigidly entrenched. Hence, the difficult decision to appeal.

We have to say, in no way to diminish this very troubling case, that from our experience with many other friends, the clumsy handling of this case in this court is, unfortunately, by no means unique. This case is a poster child for other very similar cases, and it is an urgent clarion call for urgently needed Family Court Reform in Maine. Like most Family Courts in America today, Maine’s courts are in the views of many, badly broken, dysfunctional and urgently in need of reconceptualization and reconstruction. They have lost their moorings in the law, and they are cruelly hurting many of the families and children that they are supposed to serve.

Please, read the enclosed pdf with the details of the Supreme Court Appeal and see what you think.  By all means, share it with friends and legal professionals.  Ask the questions: “Is this how our courts should function?  Is this your image of what you would expect from a court in a democratic society?”

Finally, who is in charge, where’s the oversight?

To view the case click on the link - Dalton Vs. Dalton CUM-13-521

For more information please contact or find us on Facebook

Friday, February 14, 2014

Family Court Abuse - A Parents Perspective

Dear Dr. Collins (et al):

I cannot thank you enough for all that you do for the impoverished, broken, and voiceless.

I thank everyone within the NatinoalGALalert circles for the pro-active stance that has opened doors once thought closed.

Our family's case is literally "killing" my almost 16 year-old daughter; that was her description - just yesterday - of how the numerous adversarial & prolonged family court procedures have adversely effected her.

At present, she is being held against her will within her dad's home: the Guardian ad litem (GAL) failed to hear her pleas of wanting desperately to move back in with her mother {me}. Additionally, the 2014 court order legally permits her father from allowing her visitation with her mother {me}.

The last GAL failed us on several occasions submitting an 18 page report filled with subjective information - mostly inaccurate & malicious information -- provided to her by my former husband.

The system has failed our family in 2009-2010 and in 2012 to present: both of us parents have considerable legal debt.

I am still in shock over the final judgment given to me just 2 days after I appeared in Portland (01/14/2104) to testify that I have been unable to contact Mary Ann Lynch via email.

I know both myself and my daughter suffer from a form of PTSD as a result of the on-going post-divorce conflict initiated by my former husband but fanned and fueled by those within the divorce industry.

Those who want to point fingers can point to my former husband or to me BUT the truth is, my former husband would not have been able to succeed in financially impoverishing me without the support of the divorce industry.

Collectively, our family has lost so much; the most tragic loss -- something that cannot be replaced -- is my young daughters childhood. Both teens suffer separately and differently from the conflict that results from drawn-out and highly contentious court proceedings.

Conflict is all that she knows / they know; the divorce industry knowingly or unknowing gave my former husband positive reinforcement every time he sought legal counsel to take me back to court -- twice since our original 2006 divorce.

Each consecutive court process took twice as long as the prior and the costs involved doubled from the previous process. I was just getting out of legal debt from the 2009-2010 process when my former took us back to court in 2012. That process lasted 18 plus months and cost me over $20,000 when I only earned $10,000 in 2012 and $12,000 in 2013 (I was a full-time USM student until this past May).

Presently, my debt is so astronomical that that my ability to pay court ordered child support {calculated - mind you -  on a salary that I did not actually earn} has been greatly hindered: how is any of this in the best interest of either teen? Or, the Maine tax payers? Or, to our society???

As a result of the collusion between the divorce industry and my former husband, my daughter has fallen deeper and deeper into a depressions; she has twice attempted to end her life {May and September of 2013}.

Maine care has picked up all of the costs for her medical care. Maine tax payers are footing the bill and , we as a society, are potentially losing a once energetic, civic-minded, and highly accomplished student to a major depression and self-harming behaviors both beginning after she was taken out of my home in 2010 and placed in the care of her dad.

I suggest that the mayor and the divorce industry consider a "Truth and Reconciliation Act" in order to acknowledge the pain and suffering that has taken place -- for decades upon decades -- as a result of such a broken system.

Since 2006, I have suffered - as well as the two minors -- enormous losses:

1. Loss of primary home in 2010;
2. Loss of $100,000 equity in that primary home (2012 York, Maine);
3. Loss of all material possessions sold off to pay down legal debt;
4. Loss of family pet as former husband adopted the dog out of the family once he was granted custody of both minors and their dog in 2010.
5. Decrease in credit score by 100 points due to inability to pay mortgage on primary home when former spouse was advised- by his lawyer-  to stop making child support payments in order to force me into signing 2010 post-judgment agreement;
6. Loss residential custody of both teens due to loss of primary home (temporarily left homeless);
7. Loss 1/2 retirement fund in 2010 court process to pay GAL, legal fee's and mortgage payments;
8. Loss all of savings to date; accrued credit card debt is now equal to my 2013 annual salary; loss all assets with exception to my vehicle that allows me to travel 3 hours a day to my full-time job;
9. Loss ALL parental rights and responsibilities and all decision making powers due to erroneous GAL report and due to her recommendation that losing all rights would end conflict;
10. Loss visitation rights as all visitation is now up to the discretion of my former husband who has been the instigator for all post-judgment discord;
11. The stress  and the conflict has interfered with my work at present, has created ongoing and extensive medical expenses, and has left our daughter suicidal as well as feeling hopeless about her future;
12. The scars left on the hearts of my two teenagers as well as myself may or may not ever heal; time will tell. There is nothing more psychologically harmful than to lose the right to parent: from 1996 until 2014, I gave my life to my children. I intended and strove to raise well-adjusted, law abiding, and well-educated young adults. That right has been taken from me; the family court system partook in that loss of civil liberties.

The time for healing is now.

Please allow those of us who have to live with these court ordered "solutions" to family matters be a part of the solution for creating a system that heals and supports healthy family relations rather than a system that fuels the flames of discord in order to "win" a case; we have a vast amount of anecdotal information that would be an invaluable resource for those who are truly vested in the well-being of Maine's children and in the health and welfare of the state of Maine as a whole.

With sincere gratitude for your time and consideration~


Former resident of York Maine
Present Maine tax payer
Social Justice Advocate

This letter was written to the courts and state government and came about as a result of the post "A Maine Commission to Assess the Impact of Divorce and Custody on Maine Children and Families". To read the letter to Gov. Paul LePage follow this link.

For more information please contact us at or find us on Facebook.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Maine Commission to Assess the Impact of Divorce and Custody on Maine Children and Families.

RE:   A Maine Commission to Assess the Impact of Divorce and Custody on Maine Children and Families.

The Governor
State of Maine

Dear Governor LePage,

Divorce in Maine, when child custody is involved, has evolved into an expensive, barbaric, often cruel process.  Custody decisions by our courts often seem irrational and  participants all too often find it impossible to correct a bad decision  or a bad process.   At Maine Guardian ad litem Alert, based on the data from our many contacts with people in the terrible  throes of divorce, we  increasingly feel that there is a need for a Maine Commission aimed at  assessing the impact of divorce and custody on Maine children and families- and  recommending  repairs to a badly broken family court system.  60 % of American marriages  are reported to end in divorce, and Maine is no different from the rest of the US.  But beyond dry statistics, our experience with hundreds of individuals tells us that there are psychological, social and economic side effects of the family court experience, that wreck the lives of those that have gone through divorce for years to come.  It is a shameful record.  It calls for action.

Although we would certainly support a broadly focused Commission that took a total systems approach, we would suggest that there are several important  areas where a  narrower commission might assess serious problems and propose solutions without crossing the boundaries of another branch of government: (a) the economics of divorce and its impact on the present and future of (60%) Maine citizens and on the state itself, (b)the jurisdictional disputes about which of two branches of government has final responsibility  for defining and resolving the diagnosis of adult or child abuse in divorce, and (c) problems associated with the family court’s  use of and referrals to state sponsored/funded clinics by the Judicial Branch.  This includes patient’s right to privacy issues;  standards of the types  and forms of  treatment; court-ordered, mandatory treatment; treatment effectiveness evaluations; confidentiality and the human rights issues of those receiving services.

1.) Economic problems of divorcing in Maine.  The short story is that it is very expensive, running to thousands of dollars, with courts putting no limits on the charges to citizens from a growing number of ancillary players, in  a growing number of questionably effective peripheral  services.  The growth of these unevaluated “new” services- often court mandated- have become a part of an very expanded, very expensive “divorce industry”.  Families are impoverished. Retirement and college funds are emptied.  Homes are mortgaged to the hilt.  Credit from relatives and families is exhausted.  It is an expense with no boundaries and it grows year by year.  We have to ask: Is a booming economic expansion of the “divorce industry” retarding investment in other “industries”?  The Judicial Branch keeps virtually no data, our group has some limited financial data.  However, there is a need to measure the problem, its growth and to propose solutions.  Money drained from our economy by the “divorce industry” is money not available for other more productive investments; homes, education and retirement- just to name a few.

2.)  Allegations of child or spousal abuse are all too common in contested divorces.  Some allegations are real and serious and require appropriate action; other abuse claims are “strategic”, and need investigation and then labeling as such.  At the moment, there is all too often a “turf war” between the Children's Protective program (under Human Services) and the Judicial Branch Guardian ad litem program about which entity has the final say in abuse allegations.  There are likewise “turf wars” between GALs and those trained specialist professionals who assess “dangerousness” and other dysfunctional issues.  It all too frequently happens that, if opinions of trained professionals do not concur with a GALs opinion, they are frequently ignored in favor of the GAL’s more expensive opinion, a continuing investigation by the GAL.  It should be remembered that GALs have only 16-20 hours of training and no supervision when they override the findings of those with more training and supervision.  It should also be remembered that continuing to investigate “abuse” generates significant “billable hours” for GALs and burdens families with these costs.  More important is the question of whether someone with less knowledge, skill and experience will do a better job of danger evaluation for children and families than someone with specialist education, experience and supervision?

3.) State sponsored or financed services and clinics are frequently used as referral sources by Guardians ad litem and by Maine’s courts.  The courts keep no statistics about the number of court referrals, which would help to describe (a) the size of their usage, (b) the problems encountered, (c) the outcomes  of treatment- both short and long term.  What is  the impact of court mandated treatment on children and families?  Are these court forced  referrals doing any measurable good?  How do they help?  What are we getting for our public  money?  Are the services requested by courts- such as various untested, unproved behavior change therapies-  scientifically grounded?  Is the state paying for “experimental” services on court referred children and adults  There is also the ethical/human rights issue of court mandated treatment in non-criminal cases.  Confidentiality issues and demand for what should be considered privileged information are troubling and, we are told,  don’t follow national standards.  There are instances of GALs sharing this clinical information- without “releases”- with other GALs and with unauthorized persons, using the threat of contempt if permission to release information is not granted.  It is an area that cries for study and repair.

These are just a few areas that might occupy the scrutiny of a circumscribed Commission to the benefit of our children and families.   We would be pleased to discuss further any of these suggested ideas, and we recognize that these suggestions are  just conversational openers.  It seems important to us to give a more human, rational  experience to children and families in divorce, the consumers of service.


Jerome A Collins, MD

While this is addressed to the Governor of Maine the ideas given here may be applied in any state. Feel free to use the letter and change what needs to be changed to fit the situation of your state.

For more information on what is wrong with  Family Courts and Guardians ad litem in the state follow us on Facebook or email us at

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"The snake goes into the hole"

- is what a young girl told her mother one night before taking a bath.

On another occasion this girl told her mother -

"I have to hold the snake until it dies" - one night while she was bouncing up and down.

Awhile later the Guardian ad litem did a home evaluation of both parents. During the visit with the father he talked to the Guardian ad litem about his daughters pet snake. When the Guardian ad litem visited with the mother - the mother voiced concerned about the "snake" at the fathers house. The Guardian ad litem brushed off the "snake" the daughter talked of - saying that the father and daughter were exploring nature. That the mother was letting her imagination get the best of her and it was of no concern.

If you were the Guardian ad litem - what would you do? Take the test to voice your opinion and to find out what happened - TEST. Don't want to take the test - follow this link to read about the outcome - NGAL Complaint

For more information on Guardians ad litem and Family Courts please email us at or find us on Facebook.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Ethics of My Cousin Vinny - Is this Guardian ad litem training?

What is involved in training the courts how are Guardians ad litem trained? Given the Guardians ad litem job, one might imagine a rigorous training program in which professionals designed the curriculum to match the job description, rules and.... the needs of the consumers. So much is on the line -  the recommendation of a Guardian ad litem  can and will have a major impact on the dynamics of any divorcing family.  It might be expected that the training they receive would be top notch. The courses they take should  have some bearing on the job Guardians ad litem are authorized to do.

IN the past several years the Judicial Branch, Maine Bar, MEGALI and Kids First Center, to name a few organizations, have offered training and continuing training (please note that what is offered is not continuing education) to the states Guardians ad litem. We would ask to what legally mandated, job related aim are courses such as:

The Ethics of My Cousin Vinny
Collection of GAL fees
Parental Alienation: What’s the GAL’s Role?
Youth Participation in Court Proceedings

None of these organizations have a specialty education background in curriculum development for job related training, such as one would get from an institution such as a college, or technical school or the very focused training used in large business enterprises. The courses listed come from the continuing training list that is available to Guardians ad litem. There is no description of what the courses entail and if they are relevant to the role of Guardian ad litem.

Then there is the question of if the person(s) giving the training is uniquely qualified to give training on the topic at hand?

Take for example the following:

Understanding, Assessing & Responding to Needs of the Triangulated Child - This interesting course might be just the thing for continuing education in social work, but Guardians ad litem are not social workers and by the rules published, they are not supposed to be doing social work.  Triangulation is a term that is used to explain family dynamics where one member of a family will not talk with another directly. Instead a third family member is used which creates a triangle of communication. It is a term used in psychology to help explain dysfunctional family dynamics. This is not a topic that is relevant to the role of Guardian ad litem. In addition, for a course such as this one would expect that it would be presented by someone who has a background in psychology. In this case it was presented by a lawyer.

The Social Cognitive Connection - This is another social worker course - good for social workers, but off topic for Guardians ad litem. What the term means is that people do not learn new behaviors only by trying them out. The survival of people is dependent on how people act in a socially acceptable way and that this behavior is rewarded. It is a term used in psychology to explain the way people learn, understand and react to the environment in which they live, work and play. This course was presented by a member of the board of directors of an organization that is heavily connected to the Judicial Branch. This organization is so connected to the Judicial Branch that it is promoted on the web site. There is no indication that the presenter has any background to present such a topic, or that she tailored her remarks to the specifics of the Guardians ad litem legally mandated job.

Parental Alienation - What’s the GAL’s Role? - This is another trendy topic for social workers but far removed from what the Guardians ad litem role is defined as. Parental Alienation is when a child expresses a strong dislike or even hatred towards one parent - usually the non-custodial parent. To explore this dynamic takes hours of time and as a result generates billable hours and social work improvisation. This course was presented by an organization that represents the best interest of the Guardian ad litem - not a psychologist or even a social worker. Maybe a more appropriate tile should have been "Parental Alienation - How a GAL can profit from it!"

While the above examples may be fun or interesting to attend, are they courses that will improve a Guardian ad litems mandated job performance? Probably not because as a Guardian ad litem the role requires the investigation of facts surrounding the divorcing family and the child(ren) involved. It does not require the use by the Guardian ad litem of psychology and sociology - that is what the professionals in those areas are there for. Those professionals have the education and training to interpret and understand a child, and have spent years studying the concepts needed to do so. A few hours training does not give a Guardian ad litem the needed tools to accomplish the task. Yet quite often they do. The need to tie training tightly to job function and only to job function seems to be lost on the family courts and Guardians ad litem themselves. The result are fun courses that lead to the use of junk science, psycho-eugenics and moral equivalency that infects the courts like a virus.


When Guardians ad litem, soak up "My Cousin Vinny", it is at the expense of learning the less "entertaining" rules for Guardians ad litem.  To us, it appears to be a significant defect in Guardian ad litem training.  It also makes the reports of off topic/off role improvisations and creativity in the Guardian ad litem's role more understandable.  "Social Work lite" takes some Guardians ad litem back to the understandable security of their parent profession but it corrupts Guardian ad litem functioning (and confuses the public) by neglecting the role and functioning of a Guardian ad litem - that of a court appointed investigator.

The reform of Guardian ad litem training has to be a vital aspect of Guardian ad litem and court reform.  Sorry Vinny, you're fired!

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Would you want a Guardian ad litem with this kind of training?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Would you want a Guardian ad litem with this kind of training?

This is a look at two businesses. One financial the other legal. Both deal with sensitive information, rules and regulations. Both have training programs to give the tools needed to stay within accepted standards and compliance. Both are radically different.

With these two examples ask yourself who is better trained to handle difficult situations?

1. Training consists of 8 weeks of in class study during which the process, rules and regulations are learned. There is some applied training where the students are able to study situations as a means to gain experience. Students are tested at certain points. This allows for the trainers to verify at least a minimal understanding to perform the job. There are also group discussions which at times involve people who have experience. These veterans able to give real life experience as to what the new trainees can expect. There is some role playing between seasoned professionals and the new trainees.

After 8 weeks of in class training the new trainees are able to put what has been learned to practical use. While in a real environment there are seasoned people available to answer questions. There is also several weeks of quality control to make sure the new trainees are doing the work properly and to correct any issues right away. This type of mentoring and internship tapers off over time depending on how quickly the new trainee learns.

Throughout this training there is constant feedback to the new trainees. In the working environment that feedback is even more important as a mistake made could cost the company financially. Handling other people’s money can become highly charged especially when something is perceived as going wrong. There are layers upon layers of company as well as legal rules and regulations involved to make sure those handling financial transactions are within compliance. Support from seasoned employees assures and reinforces the understanding that is needed to help customers while staying within compliance.

2. Training consists of 16 hours of in class study during which theory is learned. There may be some applied training where students are able to study situations as a means to gain experience. There is no testing during the 16 hours of training nor at the end.

After 16 hours of training there is no feedback to the new trainee. There is no mentoring or internship for the new trainee. Experience is gained at the expense of the consumer. There is no means of testing whether the new trainee is within compliance or whether or not there is a basic understanding of the rules that govern the way he/ she is to operate.

While dealing with a person’s finances is a world apart from dealing with the complexities of a divorcing family there are similarities. Both can become highly charged when something is perceived as going wrong. Both can have a huge impact on the individual(s) involved both currently and into the future. It is the training though that defines how well one does the job in question.

With the training examples given we see the training one receives for handling people's money and for handling people's lives. We see that with one - the process given to train people is extremely careful in its approach. That there are tools and systems to give support so that errors may be caught before they become major issues and hurt a person or family. There are safeguards in place to help the trainee to continue to refine what has been learned and gain experience and to do so not at the expense of the consumer. With the other we see a training process that has been developed to handle people - children and families - who are in crisis and need help. The actions of these trainees have the very real possibility of scaring the people they are supposed to help. There are no tools to help the trainees at any time. Experience comes at the expense of the families and children.  There are no safeguards in place to prevent this damage from happening. There are no systems to catch errors before they become issues.

The first is an example of a training process that is used by businesses. The second is used by the Judicial Branch in training Guardians ad litem. Would you rather  have a Guardian ad litem who has gone through a training process that has clearly defined goals, offers some means to measure understanding and offers support through mentoring and internship programs? Or would you rather have someone who has gone through the current training process of sitting in a room and warming a seat for several hours?

The answer is obvious. The Judicial Branch has a training process for Guardians ad litem that in a business environment would fail to meet the needs of consumers. Under the current model the Judicial Branch would be overwhelmed with problems and it would either go out of business because of competition from businesses that have better training programs or it would change to meet the needs of those it is supposed to serve.  But…. The Judicial Branch is not a business but a monopoly that is accountable to no one. It also has lost sight who it is supposed to serve - being more concerned with how the stakeholders will react than consumers. As a result sub-standard training is allowed and even encouraged. Where those that come up with the training (the stakeholders) curriculum do so based on their own experience. To say (or post on ones "Professional Trainings" page) that one has experience in developing training does not mean one has the necessary tools or experience to do so. Currently there is no cohesiveness in the goal of Guardian ad litem training.

The training for Guardians ad litem should be removed from the control of the Judicial Branch and the stakeholders that are enmeshed in deciding what is acceptable training. Training should be done by professionals who know and understand the goals that are to be achieved and have experience in developing curriculum.

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