Guardians ad litem praised for doing a poor job… and a pat on the back

Maine FLAC or the Maine Family Law Advisory Commission issued their recommendations a month ago. The opening paragraphs are filled with encomiums lauding Guardians ad litem and the work they do.  It is hard to understand this high praise after the recent Maine legislative session which proposed significant changes in Maine’s out-of-control Guardian ad litem program.  The comprehensive changes were made by the legislature (after study) at the request of citizens, who had experienced a disastrous Guardian ad litem system, which, intentionally or not, inflicted great harm on children and families going through divorce and custody. There were extensive hearings, with heart rendering testimony of cruel and unnecessary hardship inflicted on families and outrageous financial charges for Guardian ad litem services.  It seems inappropriate at best to laud services that the legislature, the governor, the bureaucracy and the public deemed in need of drastic overhaul.  It might suggest to many that the Family Law Advisory Commission ” still “doesn’t know it doesn’t know!”

Furthermore, it perpetuates claims of quality without any data to back these claims.  Lacking data and minimizing the seriousness of the legislative study and subsequent mandate strikes us as a bad beginning to a review of Rules for Guardians ad litem.  The tired old claim that it is about “disappointed litigants and heightened expectations” simply doesn’t cut it with the public, the legislature and the governor.  A half year of in depth legislative study, says that no oversight, no supervision, no enforcement of Rules, a non-functional complaint procedure and myriad other STRUCTURAL issues are the root of serious problems in the GAL program. Grass roots disappointment is secondary to a broken structural system that may work for GALs and judges, but it hasn’t worked for the public.  Failure to recognize this by the likes of the Family Law commission (and others in the Judicial Branch) is a huge piece of the problem!  Recovery, they say, starts with admission of the problem – any problem.

A big piece of the problem is the continuing reliance of the Judicial Branch on “stakeholders,” members of what we call “the divorce industry”, who have a strong financial interest in the ‘status quo’.  Perpetuating problem solving by “stakeholders” perpetuates blind privilege and out f touch views. It is worth noting that the one “public” member on the commission reviewing “GAL Rules” is a member of Children First, a GAL dominated advocacy group. It is adding another “fox” to the “chicken house security detail”!  There is a need for victims on this commission to help the Judicial Branch take a fresh, open look at things from a grass-roots perspective.  Right now it appears to be more of the “same old same old” attitude.

Letter from Chief Justice Saufley regarding FLAC.

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