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.

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