The New Complaint Process – Are Parents on the Highway to Hell?

And you thought that the old complaint process was scary just wait until you try and file a complaint against a Guardian ad litem (GAL) now. September 1, 2015 consumers of judicial services in Maine’s Family Courts were faced with changes in the GAL complaint process.

Could Parents end up singing?

“I’m goin’ down

All the way

I’m on the highway to hell” ( AC/DC – Highway To Hell )

Are the new rules and complaint process better for you the consumer of judicial services? Prior to September 1, 2015 we had a set of rules which came in at around 12 pages of fairly easy to understand process. The complaint process was easy to comprehend, almost intuitive. After September 1, 2015 we are faced with a whopping 60 pages of rules which the complaint process comprises a staggering 40 pages+ of process. Comments on Facebook suggest that the new complaint process if good for parents.

Or is it?

While the rules are for the most part remain the same as they were prior to September 1, 2015 the way in which a parent files a complaint has dramatically changed. For the better – we don’t think so – but you be the judge.

Here is a “simple” compare and contrast of the complaint process:

Pre-September 1, 2015

The old rules had a fairly easy to understand process and procedure for filing a complaint if you felt the GAL on your case was or had malpracticed in his/ her role.

1    If the case was ongoing a complaint could be filed with the presiding judge. This was usually done as a Motion. The complaint would sit until after the case was decided.

2    If your case was over the next level was to file a complaint with the Head Judge.

While this process was flawed in so many ways it was a process which anyone could easily understand.

Post-September 1, 2015

Parents/ consumers of judicial services are faced with a process that is multi layered – and takes on the appearance of court room proceedings.

  1. If the case is ongoing a complaint is filed with the presiding judge. This is done with the filing of a Motion.
  2. If your case has been decided then filing a complaint is submitted to the Review Board through the Review Board’s Central Intake. A form must be filled out that is approved by the board.

a.Board Counsel receives the complaint

i)                    Investigates the complaint

ii)                   Determines whether the complaint falls under the jurisdiction of the rules and determines whether or not the alleged facts – if true – constitute misconduct by the GAL.

b.      Board Counsel – Determines no misconduct

i)                    Complaint is dismissed

ii)                   Complainant has 21 days to see review of the decision

iii)                 See 2a. After the review has been completed if the Board Counsel determines there was no misconduct then complaint is dismissed and GAL is exonerated.

c.       Board Counsel – Determines misconduct

i)                    Board Counsel refers case to Board Clerk for hearing before Review Board Panel

ii)                   Pre-hearing Procedures

1)      Board Counsel files formal charges with Board Clerk

2)      Board Clerk assigns complaint to 3 member Review Board

3)      Respondent has 21 days to file written answer to Board Clerk and Board Counsel.

4)      21 days (no later than) in advance of hearing Board Clerk serves notice to Board Counsel and respondent of date and time of hearing. Written communication is sent to the complainant.

5)      14 days (at least) before hearing Board Clerk prepares for Board Counsel a statement of disciplinary sanction record.

6)      Discovery – Takes place 21 days after respondent’s answer (see c.ii.3). Information is exchanged

iii)                 Hearing

1)      Nature of the Proceedings – Chair of review Board Panel shall decide pre-hearing motions

2)      Inability to Properly Defend – If the respondent claims to be incapacitated – Board Counsel may recommend that Chief Judge suspend GAL from roster pending determination

iv)                 Review Board Panel Decision

1)      Dismissal

2)      Reprimand

3)      Removal

v)                  Appeal of Review Board Decision

The new process is daunting. In addition to the above there is the question of members being impartial. For instance there are several members rostered as Guardians ad litem and members of MEGALI (the trade organization for Guardians ad litem). MEGALI offers its members such services as a chat room, support and advice for GALs to name a few. Imagine submitting a complaint to the Board of a GAL who is a member of MEGALI. Is there any process in place which would/ will prevent the board members from discussing your complaint in the chat room of MEGALI? To our knowledge there is none. Your complaint could be decided even before it has been formally submitted.

“In America 40, 000 men and women every day”

(Redefine Families)

(Don’t Fear) The Reaper Blue Öyster Cult

Is this a better process than what we had? Or is this just a scary Halloween trick thrust upon divorcing families in the state of Maine?

MeGAL is a grassroots organization that is fighting for Family Court and Pro se reform. You may find us on Facebook or you can email us at MeGALalert@gmail.com.