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

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