“The Only Source of Knowledge is Experience” Albert Einstein

We have been hearing a lot of talk about guardian ad litems lately. I guess I didn’t realize there were so many issues with them. Why hadn’t I heard of this problem before?” This question was posted on our blog.

Unfortunately,our experience with Gal’s has been less than spectacular. Therefore, you go with what you know. For most of us the term Guardian ad litem is one that most people will never have knowledge of. Guardian ad litem or GAL is a person who works within the court system and usually involved in custody cases.They are supposed to collect information (facts)  for the Judge. Think of it this way, a Judge is only able to see a snapshot of the dispute. The GALs function provides the Judge a preview of sorts. Not the whole experience but hopefully enough that the Judge can get a sense of what is going on. There are rules and standards that the GAL operate under and management of the GAL during the investigation is in the hands of the judge that appointed him/ her.

GALs have been in the news lately because there is growing concern in the way they (GALs) are managed. Back in 2001 in the Final Report of the Committee to Review the Child Protective System – it was noted that there is no actual supervision or oversight of GALs other than the presiding Judge or through the complaint process. Back then there were 139 GALs registered. Today there are over 300 GALs registered and still no oversight.

The system as it stands is broken. The Chief Justice Leigh Saufley and The Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute recognize this fact as do several Senators and Legislators who have had personal experience. We have received emails from people who have also experienced frustration with a system that should be helpful but at times is not. There are scant statistics on how GALs operate within the system and no way of
knowing if there are issues with an individual, group or system currently. As I said the system is broken and that is why you have been seeing news on the GAL industry. There are people who are concerned about the issue of oversight and management of GALs and are trying to fix the broken system. In the future there will be more as the issues are worked on by those involved.

Like us on Facebook at Megalalert or Megalhelp or send your questions or tell your story at megalalert@gmail.com megalhelp@gmail.com

To make suggestions on ways to improve the system, please submit those to:lawcourt.clerk@courts.maine.gov

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About cathycooper

Cathy Cooper and Paul Collins are residents of Midcoast Maine involved in divorce, custody and parental issues. One from the sideline and the other from personal experience. Both working on Family Court and Guardian ad litem reform through education and political process.