Maine Guardians ad litem Oversight, Training and Accountability

A Guardian ad litem is created by Maine’s Courts- from start to finish – with a mere 16 hours of training and a notebook. After this, a  Guardian ad litem is let loose on Maine’s unsuspecting public and able to charge $125-$200 per hour.  There is no cap on their charges, no restriction of their activities, no enforcement of the rules they are supposed to follow, no supervision and no oversight.  Unbelievable?  But true!

If in the course of a custody battle you ask for a Guardian ad litem be thankful if you have one assigned that is fair and neutral and that follows the “Rules and Regs” for GALs. If you are unlucky  then be warned that it will be almost impossible to remove the Guardian ad litem. Filing a complaint about a GAL will also be useless.  There are no instructions, no guidelines for consumers to follow and no help from the Chief Judge’s office.  Under the current system, Maine’s courts look at a complaint from a legalistic standpoint, like an adversarial challenge- and not from a consumer’s point of view as a call to a manager to investigate vocational functioning . Currently complaints will resolve nothing in terms of seeking to manage or to correct the behavior of the Guardian ad litem. Maine’s courts do not understand the concept of consumer protection from flawed workers. Instead Maine’s courts respond to consumer complaints with a process that protects the GAL as “an officer of the court”.  It is like trying to remove a judge!

Guardians ad litem can bill what they want and for as much as they want. They do not have to justify their billing and may use the courts in which they work to collect their bills or set penalties for slow payers. Oh, and let’s not forget that these bills cannot be discharged in bankruptcy court (there is a good chance you will find yourself there as a result) – and the courts could have you jailed for failure to make payment.

Accuracy and first hand evidence aren’t necessary for these “16 hour wonders” to do their required reporting to the courts. They can present hearsay evidence  as fact and most courts will accept it. They do not need to be factual in the work they do and this will slip by unchallenged. Guardians ad litem can make wild speculative claims about events that may/ or may not happen in the future, sometimes referred to by informed critics  as “junk science”. The courts will accept these “junk science” claims as fact – and, worse, base judgments on them. They can choose to ignore serious health and child endangerment  issues, and the courts will not enforce the fact that failure to report dangers to children is a violation of state law and is mandated reporting. GALs can endorse social behaviors that most normal people would find shocking and Maine’s courts will accept this lack of common sense, if the GAL puts a “junk science” spin on it. The Guardian ad litem system and Maine’s family courts frequently appear to have lost any common sense.

Maine has a serious GAL problem that has kept the state in the bottom of national rating systems for years. The role of Guardian ad litem will not go away and change is opposed by GALs.  Further, they are aligned with powerful political forces that fight GAL reform.. The Guardian ad litem Institute and some of its members, who are in Maine’s legislature, will lobby to keep things the way they are.  $125 to $200 per hour, no supervision, no enforcement of rules and regs., no oversight looks pretty good!  Why change a “good thing”?. Many of these people are blind to the hurt and anger they are causing – looking down on the public they are supposed to serve and blaming their client for complaining. They are wrong and there is growing public and consumer sentiment to back this up.