Thursday, November 26, 2015

Parents "What do I owe?" - Family Court "How much you got?"

Mr. Craig Kelly appears to be a politician whom the Guardian ad litem/ Court reform movement could use. He recently gave a speech earlier this month regarding the use of a court appointed expert who by all appearances took advantage of the situation he was in by gouging the divorcing family. This issue is quite common in our Family Court system where judges grant a monopoly to Guardians ad litem and other court 'experts'. We must educate our politicians to the problems within our court systems -

FAMILY COURT RORTS – Speech in Parliament (November 2015);

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (11:18): Deputy Speaker, this morning I would like to talk about a rort — a rort that is going on in the Family Courts of Australia.

It is a rort that involves excessive fees, price gouging and virtual extortion; it is nothing other than a scam.

I am not going to name names today, but I put those on notice involved in this rort. If necessary, I will name names in this parliament.

Now Deputy Speaker, in a truly competitive market, I have no objection to anyone charging what the market will bear. In our free market, capitalist society, they are entitled to charge as much as the customer will FREELY pay.

However, where we have a situation where the Family Court orders a so-called ‘single expert” to do what is called a 'report' or an 'analysis', the court is granting them a monopoly.

And these people should not be allowed to exploit that monopoly position granted to them by the Family Court, by price gouge and charge excessive fees.

This is an area which should have government regulation where we set and regulate the fees where the Court does grant them a monopoly.

Deputy Speaker, I would like to give you an example of one of the current practices. I have a Family Court order in front of me, and it states that the participants in the Family Court, the father and the mother, should attend a particular ‘Mr X’ (name withheld) on a certain date for a further ‘single expert report’.

It goes on that the cost of ‘Mr X's’ report will be borne equally by the parties and that they will pay the sum of $8,000 each.

So Mr X is entitled to a sum of $16,000. (And parent of the child is unable to pay, they will be denied the right to even see their child, so the child is a victim of this rort as well)

When it was asked how this is calculated, it worked out at a fee of $700 per hour. That’s right Deputy Speaker; $700 per hour.

Now this is for a psychiatrist. If I look at the Australian Psychological Society's national schedule of recommended fees—the recommended fee schedule in place from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016—it sets out the recommended level of fees for an hour of consultation at $238.

So, because the courts are giving this particular individual a monopoly position—

(debate interrupted - Proceedings suspended from 11:21am to 11:34am) (debate resumed 11.34am)

- I will continue where I left off.

I was giving an example of the current practice of this rort whereby the scheduled fee recommended by the professional association is around $238 an hour (that’s $9,520 for a 40hr week – nice work if you can get it).

But in this case because the so-called expert involved has a court-ordered monopoly, they are able to charge what they like.

And they are charging 200% ABOVE the scheduled fee recommended by their professional association — a charge, including GST, of up to $700 an hour.

Deputy Speaker, I have no objection if in a fair, free and open competitive market if they want to charge $7,000 an hour, and someone is willing to pay this of their own free will.

But where the court compulsory orders a participant in the court proceedings to see an ‘single expert’ thereby granting such an individual a monopoly, and they charge such an excessive fee — a 200 % uplift, a $500 per hour UPLIFT (on the scheduled fee recommended by the professional association) — it is nothing other than an absolutely rort.

Deputy Speaker, I am not one for excessive government regulation,however we should have legislation that sets a maximum schedule of fees for these 'single experts' if they are to be given a court ordered monopoly.

For the current situation is very similar to what I remember in an old Chevy Chase movie, 'National Lampoon's Vacation', where Clark W. Griswall (played by Chevy Chase) crashed his car and had to get his car repaired. He pulls out this wallet and asks, ‘What do I owe you?'

And the repairer said, 'How much you got?' And when Clark complains about such price gouging, the repair pulls out this sheriff’s badge.

Deputy Speaker, his is akin to the same situation that we have going on in our Family Court today, and it is totally unacceptable.

Secondly, I have great concerns over some of the secrecy provisions in the Family Court. I would like to quote one Mr J Robert Oppenheimer from the 1950s. He said, which well applies to our Family Court today:

“We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism … We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.”

We need to end a few practices in our Family Court. We need to end the practice of secrecy.

We need to shine a bright light on the practices that are currently going on in our Family Court.

If we are going to continue to have the practice of single experts, a practice which I am greatly concerned about, we must have a schedule of professional fees they can charge. which must be reasonable.

And Deputy Speaker, regarding the current practices—these current rorts that I have outlined — I am putting these people on notice that they are being watched. This parliament is going to shine a light on their activities. (time expired).

If you have been involved in a case which has turned sour or just does not make sense we ask that you contact us at or find us on Facebook.

Friday, November 20, 2015

IRE - Guardian ad litem reforms 'a step backward' says Council of the Bar of Ireland

Irish Examiner

The Government’s plans to reform the guardian ad litem (GAL) system constitute a “step backwards” and raise serious concerns around compliance with “constitutional and international standards”, the Council of the Bar of Ireland has warned.

GALs represent the wishes and best interests of children in court proceedings, but the system is currently unregulated.

Costs associated with GALs have brought the issue to the fore in recent years.

In 2014, the Child and Family Agency spent €16.5m on GALs, €6m for their solicitors, and up to €1.5m for their barristers.

In its consultation paper on plans for reform, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs states that it is seeking to set up a national service either through a dedicated body, or “utilising existing structures”.

It says “the approach being considered is that the status of the GAL would be that of a court-appointed adviser”, and that “the appointment of a GAL would be at the discretion of the court”.

The paper sets out the set of circumstances when a GAL might be appointed — essentially complex or disputed cases — and states that GALs would only to have access to legal advice/representation as an “exceptional matter”.

The Bar Council of Ireland contends that all children should be appointed GALs, unless there is a reason why they do not need one.

Full story: Irish Examiner

Thursday, November 12, 2015

TN - Mother jailed after not paying guardian ad litem


MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- WREG has the story of a Bartlett mom who spent time behind bars, not because she committed a crime, but because she didn't pay a lawyer.

Guardians ad litem are often appointed in divorce cases to look out for the best interest of the children, but some parents are sounding the alarm on what they call a pattern of problems and pricey fees that have little to do with protecting kids.

"I was put in shackles as though I was some sort of violent criminal," said Angela Gilmore.

"I had to walk with handcuffs and shackles on my legs into a van and out on the street. I was marched through the courthouse."

Except Gilmore hadn't committed a crime. She got locked up for not paying a lawyer. One she didn't even hire.

"She went into court and demanded over and over to have me incarcerated," said Gilmore of the attorney.

Gilmore had sole custody of her children until last year.

A bitter custody battle led to Judge Donna Fields appointing Guardian ad Litem Shari Myers to the case.

Attorney Sam Blaiss says appointing a GAL is a move often necessary to cut through the "he said, she said" in divorce cases.

Full story: WREG 3

Related stories:

TN - Shelby County Woman Jailed for Failing to Pay Guardian ad Litem

TN - Shelby County Woman Jailed for Failing to Pay Guardian ad Litem

Tennessee Bar Association
Shelby County resident Angela Gilmore spent time behind bars after failing to pay Guardian ad Litem Shari Myers – an attorney Judge Donna Fields appointed to Gilmore’s divorce case involving children. WREG reports Gilmore claims she was unable to pay the $3,300 owed to Myers, prompting the attorney to file a petition of contempt against Gilmore.

For the original piece: TBA

Related stories

TN - Mother jailed after not paying guardian ad litem